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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

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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Coming Home (2).jpg

Jesus’ last words, recorded by the beloved Disciple, John, should fill us with wonder, awe, and gratitude beyond words to express!  “It is finished!”

Our Lord’s proclamation is the affirmation of our salvation.  His sacrificial death in which He took all the sin of the world, from beginning to end, liberates me—has exonerated me, and all who believe in Jesus’ finished work, from all the condemnation that we deserve.

Then, after dying to pay the unspeakably enormous price of our sin, Jesus rose—alive and triumphant—defeating the power of death.  Those who have trusted Christ for their salvation share in His Resurrection Life.  He has given us His Holy Spirit, and we are a new creation in Him!

Back in January of 1971, when the Lord Jesus catapulted me into His kingdom, I literally felt like I had been shot out of a cannon—like the lady in the Shrine Circus which our family enjoyed every year when it came to Milwaukee.  But the talented and skilled circus performer was simply shot out into the arena for the purpose of entertaining an audience.  I was catapulted into the Kingdom of God and Eternal life.

“Catapulted” is the perfect word for my salvation.  One moment I was a skeptic steeped in humanism, and suddenly in the next moment I was a child of God.  Today, nearly five decades later, I still savor that joy, and sense of sudden freedom, as I contemplate Jesus’ finished work on Calvary, and His Resurrection.

Many people do not recall the moment they were saved.  Our youngest son, Karl. was seven years old when I became a believer.  I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and our entire family was privy to the GOOD NEWS.  Shortly after that great day Karl said, “I don’t know when Jesus came into my heart. I guess He just walked in.”

Obviously Karl had a sweet, open soul and he didn’t need to be catapulted in the fashion of his stubborn, thirty-seven year old mother.  God works differently in every life—uniquely customizing the miracle of salvation to each one of us.

It is finished!  Those powerful words resonate with me.  How often do we fret and obsess over some unfinished task looming over our heads—be it a report or assignment in our workplace, or muddy windows or a closet heaped with disorganized odds and ends at home?  The completion of these jobs is sometimes interrupted by immediate concerns which alter our schedule and consume time and energy: the computer freezes, a toothache suddenly has to be fixed, our car dies of old age, or a child throws up.

Life is wonderful, life is GOOD.  But we have a fallen planet, someday to be restored when our LORD returns—and at the moment we are living in the “meantime”.  The meantime can be a piece of work!

Finally, at the age of 84, I am learning that my “work” will never be finished in my lifetime.  There are always more projects lined up on the runway than I have months or years for completion.  The daily tasks can be all-consuming, because I love to do everything well.  But my hyper-perfectionism died on the Cross with our LORD.  It was wood, hay, and stubble compared to simply relaxing in Jesus love, focusing on Him, doing my best, and choosing to glorify Christ in whatever I do—knowing that my life is a process and my work will never be completed while I am still on this fallen earth.

Yes, I stumble, and Yes I am lifted up by His redeeming love.  Musicians, the monk, John Michael Talbot, and his brother, Terry Talbot have a beautiful song (among all of their incredibly wonderful compositions) referring to that redemptive love in their album NO LONGER STRANGERS—a song called “We Will Rise”, with these words: “. . . in Him all our failures shall not be defeats, and when we are weak He renews our strength.

How comforting to realize, to understand with all our heart and mind, that the only finished work on earth is that which Jesus did for us on Calvary.  Jesus paid it all!  He is risen.  He is alive.  And it is finished!

Margaret L. Been — March 31st, 2018

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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

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Us

“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time as the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

One would have to be clueless, to doubt the fact that the days are evil.  The days have been evil ever since the game-changing fiasco in the garden.  But Eden did not have cell phones, a worldwide internet, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and billions of people—starving, warring, and suffering unspeakable horrors.  Eden’s evil was not so sophisticatedly organized, so widely and criminally justified by evil national majorities—so whitewashed to appear humanitarian, reasonable, rational, “kind to the planet” and altruistic, as the convoluted sin of these days.  It took thousands of years to get here.

Those of us who prefer keeping our heads in Scripture rather than sand believe we are nearing the book of Revelation, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth to establish justice and reign in His Holy City, Jerusalem.  No we are not to name the day or the hour.  But YES, we are to watch for the signs prophesied by Old Testament Prophets, the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), and New Testament letters culminating in Jude and Revelation. 

The days are evil, and we are nearing the end of the Church Age.  In the words of beloved Christian brother, Francis Schaeffer, “How do we then live?”  How am I to respond or react to evil times?  Am I to go high stress, slap-dashing about in a fervor of Chicken Little-ish behavior?  Wrong!  Am I to think about nothing else than the fact that the days are evil?  Wrong again!

Am I to eschew beauty and instead fashion a drab, lackluster world around me, an environment which says nothing about creative living?  How horrible is that!

So what is Right?  My quest for an answer always comes back to the above quotes from Philippians and Ephesians, and countless other passages having to do with gracious, Spirit-filled living.  Joyous living.  God is still in charge.  God has always been and will always be in charge.

Yes, we are to speak up and out whenever we can.  Yes we are to pray with compassion for those who suffer all over this crazy, convoluted earth.  Yet it is still God’s earth.  As well as being fully God, Jesus was fully human—modeling the perfect humanity intended for people on earth, until man and woman (not in that order) blew it in the beautiful garden which God had provided for them.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will return, to reign on earth for 1000 years.  Scripture predicts a New Heaven and New Earth.  Certainly we will not fathom details until they unfold, but nowhere in the Bible is “earth” left out of the equation.  God created earth, and He loves His creation.  In light of that truth I can only gather that we humans, the most valued of His creation, are to go on living and loving the life He has given us on earth.

That means gratitude rather than gloom.  That means serenity rather than stress.  That means pure, down-to-earth appreciation for and pleasure in His boundless gifts—people to love, gardens to plant, creative hobbies to pursue, art, music, poetry, sports, sunshine, fresh air, the list is endless.  Earth gifts!

There is a pathetic “hangover” from past Christian eras and persuasions which taught that physical and soul pleasures were intrinsically evil.  Hence:  the monks who starved themselves or didn’t converse with each other, those Christians who wear drab clothing because anything eye-catching might lead to idolatry (or immorality), and believers who avoid the enjoyment of any pastime without blatantly “spiritual” overtones.

Asceticism is NOT BIBLICAL.  It NEVER WAS BIBLICAL.  Asceticism is a boring, yet potentially devastating ploy invented by the Evil One who—if he cannot get Christians to throw in the towel and quit, will instead lure them into nurturing a sense of pride in not doing this and not enjoying that.*

The paradox here is that within God’s creative, expansive and wholesome arena of “this or that”, we are to walk with joyous confidence; it is the pride inherent in asceticism which God hates, and holds us accountable for.  The person who lives by asceticism may be bowing before the idol of pride!

Life on earth is to be loved, savored, celebrated, and enjoyed to the max while never losing sight of our Creator, never forgetting that He is the Creator of all things—every breath we inhale, every flower we plant and gather.  With our heads full of God’s “whatsoever things”, our lives will shine out to the lost souls who desperately need to know about our Saviour.  As long as God’s people remain on earth (His earth!) and continue to redeem the time, there will be some light, and some good, although the days are evil.

Margaret L. Been — January 26, 2016

(First posted in “God’s Word is True”, September 25, 2015)

*THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, by C.S. Lewis provides a witty and wonderful treatise on the pitfall of asceticism.

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January Sunrise

On the third Sunday in January forty-five years ago, I was catapulted into God’s family by believing in the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ—who was crucified for our sin and resurrected to give to anyone who will believe, His everlasting LIFE!

That January day is etched in my heart and head; never before had the sun been so bright and the snow so pristine white.  In the morning I went to a new-to-me church where I heard the Gospel preached.  I had heard God’s truth on other occasions, without response.  But on that day forty-five years ago, I was ready to believe.  It had to be true; there was no other answer to life!

As I walked into the church service on that Sunday, the congregation was singing a hymn—and the sound of that singing shocked me.  I’d attended church services in “quiet” Protestant churches all my life.  Never before had I heard hymns sung the way that congregation was singing.  Suddenly it occurred to me:  these people really mean what they are singing!

I believe the hymn singing marked the beginning of my new birth process that day.  When the Gospel message was preached, everything clicked.  It was true, and I knew it.  I was a sinner.  I needed salvation, and the Lord Jesus is real.  He died and rose for me, and now I belonged to Him.  I could sing the hymns, and really mean what I was singing.

How I love the old Gospel hymns.  Thankfully, the church where I now attend has not discarded the old favorites, although we do have contemporary praise music as well.  But there is nothing like the hymns, because so many of them teach as they sing—reinforcing the truths of Scripture, implanting these truths in our minds, challenging, encouraging, comforting us with every line.

Just a few of my favorites are:  “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (Joseph Scriven and Charles C. Converse), “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (Helen Howarth Lemmel), and of course John Newton’s “Amazing Grace” which, according to my wishes and depending on God’s will, is scheduled to be played by a bagpiper in kilts at my Going Home Celebration;  I have my Celtic heritage to thank for that desire.

My paternal grandfather was a Congregational preacher who loved the Lord Jesus with all his might.  I know that my grandparents’ witness and prayers were among the many factors which God used to draw me to Himself.  Grandpa Longenecker loved hymns.  In his last years on earth he played through his hymnbook on his violin, nearly every day.

I can still picture Grandpa fiddling away.  Sometimes he would pause, rest his violin on his knee, and preach at me about the coming glory when he would be face to face with the Lord.  At the time, I was a clueless teen-ager thinking about the coming high-school dance (or my coming violin recital) rather than the Lord.

But the shine on Grandpa’s face was not lost to me.  His face literally glowed when he talked about the Lord—and his snappy, deep brown eyes sparkled.  If I’d been into musing beyond dances and recitals in those days, I might have wondered about the shine and the sparkle!  To me he was just “Grandpa”.  But how I loved him!

Now, like Grandpa Longenecker, I play through my hymnal frequently—enjoying my favorites and occasionally trying a selection which is new to me.  But unlike Grandpa, I play the hymns on my piano.  A broken left arm and dislocated wrist curtailed my violin playing back in the 1990s—after I’d finally begun to retrieve some of the technical skills I’d put in storage for decades of raising a family and doing other things.  Meanwhile, I never put music per se in storage;  I’d kept right on singing and playing my piano through the years.

Today, at age eighty two, I simply do not sing like I once did—unless you call a one-octave tenor bass range “singing”.  At least you can call it a “joyful noise”.  But I can play my piano, and play I do.  It’s great therapy for the soul, as well as for arthritic fingers.  “Great is Thy Faithfulness!”

And often while playing I recall that cold Sunday many years ago, when I first heard hymns sung as if the singers really meant it.  The power of the hymn!

Hymnbook

Margaret L. Been — January 13, 2016

NOTE:  The above sunrise photo was taken in our front yard this very morning.  Too beautiful for words.  Fortunately I grabbed my I-Pad immediately and took pictures of the sunrise over our park.  Five minutes later, the colors had disappeared into normal morning daylight.  Lovely, but not so spectacular as those first moments of dawn.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

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Clean Palette 2

Except for last minute baking, I’m ready for Christmas.  Tree lights are glowing.  Gift bags, stuffed with presents and labeled according to family groups, are neatly arranged around the tree.  Our out-of-town family members’ gifts (to Colorado, Washington, and California) have arrived at their destinations.  

With approximately 46 family members, Christmas preparations are no small accomplishment.  But, by God’s grace, I’ve managed to do it again.  Online shopping and the plethora of available gift cards have made Christmas traditions incredibly easy.  And it’s fun to shop throughout the year—finding gifts at art fairs, antique shops, and bookstores.  Some of the items have been produced (painted, grown and dried, knitted, etc.) right here in our home.  By December my storeroom is groaning with bounty, eagerly waiting to be wrapped or bagged.  A sense of order reigns.

While savoring the process of preparation, I focus on the Greatest Gift of all: our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He has provided through His shed blood, for all who will believe.  God Incarnate died to pay our sin debt, and rose to give us Eternal Life.  Through the Abundant Life of His Indwelling Holy Spirit, we have peace in the midst of turbulent times.

As the earth turns . . . !  Now that may sound like a silly soap opera title.  But the revolving of the earth around the sun, season after season and year after year, is far more exciting than any human meladrama ever imagined!  The revolving of the earth is a God drama, and it never grows old. 

Some individuals are acutely sensitive to the turning of the earth and seasons, and I’m grateful to be one of those people.  In our souls, we actually feel the turning which accompanies seasonal changes in the amount of daylight.  The turning surges in our blood and bones, and we respond with anticipation and joy!

Thus when we plummet headlong toward the darkest day (approximately December 21st this year), those of us who turn with the earth anticipate the very next thing—an increase in daylight which will begin shortly after the solstice.  By Christmas Day, we’ll have gained one minute of daylight.  According to my charts, New Year’s Day will bring an additional 4 minutes!  The sun rises later for awhile after the solstice, but daylight compensates by increasing substantially at sunset.

This after-solstice turning is illustrated by the above photo: a clean palette representing a new year.  Recently I got up in the night, determined to make a fresh start at my bridge table studio.  I really do believe in setting New Year’s goals, because (reasonable) goals inspire me to new adventures.  

My art goals for 2013 are:  1) slow down, deliberate more thoroughly, spend days (or possibly weeks) on a single painting and 2) work bigger.  The sheet of ARCHES 140 lb. cold press paper pictured above is larger than I have successfully negotiated so far.  I’ve tried working on a sheet this size, only to botch up part of it—resulting in cropping and matting smaller renderings from my initial attempt.  Perhaps the goal of slowing down will facilitate a shift in the size of my “masterpieces”.

I know I’ll start in on the sheet and clean palette before January 1st.  When I’ve learned to paint this size to my satisfaction, I hope to graduate to the American standard full sheet of watercolor paper which is 22″ x 30″.  For that undertaking, I’ll outgrow my bridge table and will need to clear off 2/3rds of our dining room table—leaving a commodious 1/3rd on which my husband can relax over his meals.*  (I’ll sandwich my miniscule servings into a space at the edge of my palette—while being careful not to crumb up the work in process.) 

Human goals notwithstanding, only God knows what 2013 will bring!  Someone recently posted the following comment on one of my blogs:  “I think Obama was re-elected so Americans will put their trust in God rather than politicians.” 

A wise statement!  Perhaps this will be the year when our nation returns to the premise on which we were founded.  Perhaps 2013 will be the year when our Lord returns for his own!  God is faithful and He will fulfill His plan as promised in Scripture, as the earth turns . . . !

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Praise God, I have a husband who heartily applauds my makey lifestyle.  He has been apprised of my desire to paint big, and he’ll be interested in whatever is going on at his dinner table!  I could set up an art camp in the middle of our living room, and he wouldn’t mind a bit.  But he does have his very own room for lounging in a LAZY-BOY, resting on a daybed if desired, viewing whatever sports are in season, and working at his own paper-inundated computer desk. 

It comforts me to note that some geniuses (among them, reportedly, Albert Einstein!) have had messy desks like Joe’s.  My desks are picky neat, so I’m obviously not very brilliant!  But I never mess with Joe’s space, other than the occasional perfunctory swipe of the woolly duster on his TV screen and around the pictures (my art) on his walls.  

Joe’s room is his domain—although he did buy a comfy chair on wheels which can be rolled out of a corner so that I can join him to watch National Geographic lions, or whatever.  We are highly compatible!  🙂

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