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Posts Tagged ‘No Stress Allowed’

The handsome gentleman pictured above is my Dad, Ernst Longenecker.  The portrait was taken in the late 1930s when my cousins and I (clustered on the steps of our Grandparents’ home, on the left side of the picture) were kids.  I think most everyone who knew my Dad smiles over memories of this man.

He was an individual!  He was a mechanical engineer by degree, a manager of various manufacturing companies, an inventor, a wonderful father, an outdoorsman, and a mellow story-teller.  Dad had a passion for life.  His enthusiasm influenced many people who knew him.

When Dad was 88 years old, I asked him if he attended the Retired Men’s Club at his church.  Dad’s answer was classic: “I’m not about to hang around with those old geezers!”

Dad lived until age 102.  His last years were marked by an increasingly painful arthritis and other ortho issues which slowed him down, physically.  But he loved books, and continued reading until just after his 101th birthday.  Suddenly his eyes would no longer focus, and the absence of reading broke his heart.

My dad had a pet peeve:  people who spoke condescendingly to senior citizens.  He used to say (rather vehemently!) “Don’t call me ‘spry’, and don’t call me ‘sprightly’! ”  My husband and I chuckle every time we mention those words.

Why are some individuals young at 95 and others seem old by the time they reach 60?  Health often plays a role, yet I’ve known people with frail health who maintained that life affirming vitality to the very end.

Both of my Grandmothers were youthful until they died, in their late 80s.  One suffered from many ortho issues (my Dad’s Mother) and the other had serious cardiac issues. Neither of my Grandmothers let health problems interfere with their joy in living.  They were Christian women who knew where they were ultimately going, and they had a lot of fun on earth in the meantime.

The common denominators (in every person I have known who lived a vibrant old age) are FAITH and PASSION!  Faith in GOD and meaning in life.  A passion for something, or things, causing joy when everything else hurts.

Dad loved travel, and when his body no longer traveled he continued to travel via books.  He was passionate about new discoveries and technologies.  He read THE WALL STREET JOURNAL assiduously, and he always seemed to know things the rest of us wouldn’t realize until years later.  Dad lived on the “cutting edge”.

In the 1950s, when many of us (including myself) were cluelessly puffing and inhaling on our cigarettes, Dad began sending me clippings (from the above mentioned news source) linking smoking with lung cancer and other respiratory ailments.  While most of my friends were still smoking, I had bouts of pneumonia and severe bronchitis—and I experientially understood the dangers of tobacco.  In 1963 I quit smoking and never looked back.

One incident involving my Father looms large.  When our 1st child was a toddler in 1955, she fell against a space heater and burned both hands.  Laura’s fingers curled as she screamed with pain.  Without hesitating, Dad sprang from his chair, picked Laura up, and rushed to the sink where he poured cold water from the tap on Laura’s hands.  He held her hands under the cold water for many minutes.  Finally, he turned the water off.  Laura was peaceful and comfortable, and her burns never even blistered.  This, in an era where most of us were still putting grease on burns!

In the 1960s, Dad got very excited.  He told me that someday infinite amounts of information would be contained in a little “chip” about the size of his thumbnail.  Quite frankly, I thought my father had crossed the line into science fiction.  But he had such a glow in his eyes, when he talked about an “information revolution”.

Today I recall that conversation frequently, whenever I load the photos from my camera chip into my computer, or when my Husband’s cardiac technician holds a little disc in front of Joe’s chest where a pace maker/defibrillator is installed, to record the activities of his heart.

My body is following the genetic course set for me by Dad and his Mother.  I have inherited the orthopedic issues—disintegrating bones and lumbar discs, spondylosis, sacroiliac disfunction, and general arthritis which becomes more pronounced, painful, and physically limiting every year.

But I’ve also inherited the passion gene.  With books, a computer and I-pad, a piano, two spinning wheels and a plethora of gorgeous wool and vibrant silk for spinning (purchased online), knitting supplies, plants growing indoors and out, and art paraphernalia at my finger tips my body doesn’t need to be an athletic wonder.  And I do not have to focus on pain!

A passion for living!  A passion for learning, fueled and satisfied by books and online sources, and a love of creative pursuits—as many as possible for as long as possible.  Most of all, a PASSION for our Lord.  Praise Him, I know where I am headed!

Meanwhile, I love to dress up in fun and funky attire, drape beads around my neck, plug my ear holes with gems and dangles, and blend my PT exercises with the slow intro to the famous Greek ZORBA DANCE.

Recently, my loving and admiring husband said, “Oh my, you look spry and sprightly!”  Unlike my Dad, I don’t mind those adjectives one bit! 🙂

Margaret L. Been, March 25th, 2019 

(Reprinted, edited, and brought up to date from a 2011 entry in my health blog:  accessible through GOOGLING “Margaret L. Been —  RICHES IN GLORY”.)

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The Long Deep Quiet


Frozen time unhinged . . .

pulsing, throbbing life unseen . . .

waiting to burst forth.

I’ve often wondered if those who live in a tropical or near-tropical part of the world experience the four seasons with as much joy, anticipation, and metaphorical musings as we do here in the North, where each one of the seasons is uniquely distinct!  I would certainly miss the round of annual changes that have been a part of life forever—even during a handful of years in my beloved Colorado, which does also have definite changes although (happily!) it can be 70 degrees there at Christmas.

It is fun to grouse about winter, but the truth is I LOVE it—especially now that we are in our dotage, and don’t have to go out on the roads unless we really want to.  Even a clinic appointment may be postponed if icy roads prevail.

I do know that occasional change can be delightful in winter.  Back in the days when I flew at the drop of a WHIM, to visit our out-of-state children, I enjoyed an occasional week with our son, Karl, in Denver CO which was sometimes warmer than Wisconsin, and other times capable of producing a sudden 18 inches of snow.

And I recall one January when I visited our oldest daughter, Laura, in the environs of Bellingham, WA.  I was treated with typical NW Rainforest weather.  A constant quiet, warmish rain made music on the metal roof of Laura’s home—like the melodious, soothing repetition of a George Winston piano composition.  I got so excited about the sound of the rain on the roof, that Laura’s six year old daughter, Nancy, asked—very pointedly—“Grandma!  Doesn’t it ever rain in Wisconsin?”

Conversely, Laura has traditionally loved to come home to Wisconsin in January—especially when we lived in the deep, quiet Wisconsin Northwoods.  There it is normally anywhere from 15 to 30 degrees below zero in January, the kind of weather when nose hairs freeze and crackle.  The kind of weather where the sun, slowing climbing back Northward, is brilliantly blinding as it reflects on snow and ice.

Laura and I would sit each bitter cold, sunny morning, watching for the local bald eagle to cruise over our frozen flowage lake—while to the discerning eye, various soft tints of color occasionally played across the ice as the sun moved overhead.

Now, 285 miles South of that high winter home, we are just as contented.  Winter is the deep quiet time of our four seasons year.  For the home-loving soul who thrives on “making”, winter days are creative—whether “creative” means home-made bread hot from the oven, a painting, a morning of piano practice, a garment growing on the knitting needles, or most any other kind of “making”.  In Wisconsin we have our deep snow winters, and our winters with hardly any snow.  But winter is winter.

How thrilling to know that, as we relish this quiet time of crafting, music making, or whatever, the sun grows stronger and higher in our hemisphere every day.  Each year I print out sunrise/sunset/length of day charts for December of the past year and January, February, and March of the current year.

The U.S. Navy produces these online charts.  For the more scientific mind, charts including the length of twilight at each end of the day are available.  But I am contented just to read the times of the sun’s appearing and disappearing—and the growing moments of daylight.  Even as I type this blog entry, we have gained 5 minutes of daylight since the winter solstice.  This thrills me to my bone marrow!

Growing daylight is a testimony to God’s faithfulness, as expressed in the beloved hymn:  “Great is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm (lyrics) and William Runyan (music).  The verse, “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” resounds with truth and life through the visuals of our four seasons climate.

And winter, with its long deep quiet, is as much a witness to God’s faithfulness as spring and high summer with their green explosions, and autumn with its mellow bounty.  In the winter we know that life continues quietly underground, gathering strength in the ever-increasing daylight while pulsing, throbbing, and waiting to burst forth!

Margaret L. Been — January 4th, 2019

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret L. Been — November 23, 2018

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

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Wisconsin natives have no illusions about the weather outside, and we should certainly not be surprised by inner weather changes as well!  The above digitally altered photo of our river in our years ago up north home shows the next thoroughly predictable November weather development–due to land tomorrow, just outside our patio door in Southern Wisconsin.

My inner weather change is due to a complication following last summer’s hip replacement:  a femur in that leg which was silly enough to tear itself away from the prothesis, creating all sorts of unpleasantness.  The subsequent second surgery wasn’t all that much fun, but hey–with 4 weeks left of a 6 weeks no walking sentence (expect for hopping on the good foot, via a walker) I am having FUN.

In our living room we have a roomy sofa, and a compact one.  For this one leg duration, Joe and I are sleeping on the living room sofas–large and small.  Joe has always loved sofa sleeping and often has retreated to it when his restless legs tire of thrashing on our bed.

For me, while recuperating, the small sofa presents a special world.  Next to the sofa are 2 small tables and space beneath, all of which contain my current life:  Bible and notebook, books in progress, art books, mixed media art supplies and papers, letter writing needs, knitting projects, a space for the ubiquitous coffee and diet ginger ale, cosmetics and primping paraphernalia, a mirror–of course I am no longer (never was!) fairest of them all, but only the wicked witch would care about that and I don’t want to be anything like her.

Also sofa-side, my I-phone (source of frequent enjoyment including Amazon Priming) and my I-pad for news, French lessons, and–along with a lot more–the PBS Passport App with its world of science, history, amazing documentaries, and fantastic fiction (where I am currently engrossed in a review of the convoluted plots and subplots at DOWNTON ABBEY).

If that were not enough, I have on my I-pad 2 wonderful British art magazines with monthly additions and the capacity to read several years of back issues.  The artist in me is continually fed by these publications and my art books.

Along with these percs, both I-pad and phone connect me to the greatest music of Western Civilization, streamed through 2 fine speakers in our living room.  At the moment, Van Cliburn’s recordings of Rachmaninoff and Grieg top the list of my very most beloved.  There is something about PIANO, and in my estimation Van Cliburn’s was (and remains) the most passionate and earth shaking of all!

And, as of today, my laptop.  Oddly, I have never thought of this appliance as a portable friend.  But it has dawned on me (DUH!) that the word “laptop” means something.  Now I am putting it to use.  It has taken its place as a part of my sofa home rehab center.

If there is anything of depth to share with you in all these mundane details it is this:  I refuse to feel sorry for myself.  It would be sin to do so,  I am delighted with the people in my life (a family of 53 immediate members counting generations–no cousins, etc.) and the fact that I am as comfortable as possible in our lovely warm home, with plenty of excitement at hand.

And now a typical Wisconsin November weather promise.  Snow tomorrow.  In general, we are a hardy lot here–descended from brave pioneers.  Life is all about different kinds of weather–indoors and out.

Margaret L. Been — November 8th, 2018

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March Walk

I am not referring to the “outdoors” for millions of Americans, that world which is surrounded by cement, concrete, metal, steel, brick and mortar or any other of man’s useful building materials.  Despite the usefulness of these necessities for community living, we can become so acclimated and overwhelmed by them that we are in danger of forgetting there is another “outdoors”—that which God created not simply to provide resources for the above-listed essentials, but specifically to nurture our bodies and souls.

Speaking from personal experience, I must not only bring God’s created world of outdoors in, I must keep it in to remain balanced and whole.  Thus our home is filled with natural treasures:  a variety of sea shells, coral, hunks of quartz and petrified wood, stones and polished agate, jars and bowls filled with chestnuts, fresh flowers blooming in their season, houseplants, and beauty like the above-pictured gleanings of last summer’s dried bounty harvested yesterday—in the prairie just a three minute walk from home.

We bring the outdoors in when we visit wild places, hike or ski through them, or even just view the natural countryside from a car window if that is all we can do.  Exposures to natural and wild beauty can imprint our hearts and minds for a lifetime—renewing and refreshing over the years.  Even though I can only remember from years ago a vacation at the rocky Maine seacoast, or living with the majesty of the Colorado mountains a few miles from my back yard, I am surfeited by theses experiences recalled.

With a vivid and lively imagine we can bring the outdoors in via books that take us anywhere in the world we desire to go!  I am a person most blessed because I have vicariously traveled the world through books.  When I read I am THERE—wherever I have decided to go—and my soul is richer for the trip!

Over 160 years ago, an American whom I love wrote these timeless words:  “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.”  Throughout the many decades since Henry David Thoreau penned WALDEN and many other writings, Americans have enjoyed God’s gift of nature so wisely preserved by federal, state, and local governments.  But Thoreau also celebrated and wrote about natural creation which can be found at home, wherever there are gardens, birds, and life!*

I often muse over the era in which Thoreau lived and wrote: the mid 19th century.  Technology back then consisted of trains and factories.  In Thoreau’s lifetime one got around by:  train; horse–or horse drawn conveyance, boat, or foot.  Although the telegraph had been invented, most personal and everyday communications were still largely conducted via the spoken or written word.  Thoreau wrote about the human need to periodically remove oneself from human technology and society.

Thoreau loved to walk, engrossed in every natural sight and sound along the way.  What would the perceptive philosopher think about our world today?  Could he ever have envisioned a culture where countless people walk along a lovely park path, heads down and preoccupied with texting or otherwise puttering with their phones?  Or tuning out the birdsong with earphones and streamed music?

Whether or not Henry David Thoreau could have envisioned such advances, he very clearly understood the human drive to discover the potential of and harness resources for man’s use—with all the more urgent necessity to bring the outdoors in, for the good of our souls!

Margaret l. Been — March 23, 2018

*Thoreau’s writings are not just “reads”; they are “re-reads” over and over and over!  One always discovers something new and fresh with the re-reading.  For Christmas one year, my Joe gave me the complete huge 2-volume set of Thoreau’s diaries.

It is fairly well-known that this “beloved Yankee” died at age 45 in early May, 1862, of tuberculosis.  The diary entries (from 1837 to 1861—two volumes approximately 1750 pages each in small font) center on the natural environment with occasional references to books or articles read by Thoreau, or people in his community and individuals he has met in his travels.  The journals include writings dated until a year before Thoreau’s death, and nowhere in reading have I found anything about Thoreau’s illness or personal distress. 

The final entries in 1861 indicate that Thoreau is no longer out and about.  Friends, one of whom is Horace Mann, bring him natural specimens and gleanings from their nature walks, and Thoreau writes from his past observations when out in nature.  In these final entries we see evidence of the outdoors brought into the immediacy of his home:  descriptions of birds viewed from a window; prevailing weather (always a natural phenomena observable from anywhere above ground); and (most poignant of all I think), delightful descriptions of a batch of kittens born during Thoreau’s final days of writing.

NOTE:  Another and hugely significant reason to love Henry David Thoreau was his dedicated and very vocal advocating for the abolition of slavery.

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It’s All about LIFE!

beautiful silly Dilly

 

beautiful wool 2.JPG

More SW

More G

More Fun

More FA

Leo again again again again again

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!

music 2

Margaret L. Been — July 31st, 2016

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. . . begins tomorrow, and that is not an April Fool.  If I spend any significant amount of time indoors (a lot depends on the weather and the gardens) I hope to post poems in April, in honor of that high art which is rapidly becoming extinct in our retrograde, dumbed-down American culture.

While a number of my favorite 20th century poets are still under copyright so that I cannot reprint their entire poems, I can go back to my all-time most beloved of all poets and authors of drama—The Old Bard, himself.  His writings are only exceeded by the Holy Bible.  The Bible being God’s Word will always rank number one in ageless truth, but after that comes a human author who speaks universally to the human heart and psyche like none other.  If this author were required reading at every level of every public and private school, there quite possibly would be no need for the “science” of psychology to attempt the unraveling of human nature.

Marry the factor of universality to the most exquisite use of language, and you have William Shakespeare.  I believe that the works of Shakespeare—as well as those of Milton and other past literary giants, plus artists and composers—are living proof of the Creationist World View.  It is pathetically obvious to anyone but the most deluded individual that mankind is not advancing with time!

Meanwhile, to jump-start National Poetry Month, here is Sonnet #64:

When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-ras’d
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the wat’ry main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
 
William Shakespeare, 1564-1616
 
After the Storm

 

Note:  Great poetry has more permanent staying power than even GORILLA GLUE!  The line, “. . . weep to have that which it fears to lose.” has filled my heart and mind for as long as I can remember.  (I was raised when Shakespeare was read in schools, and of course he was prominent on our bookshelves at home.)

We certainly do “weep to have” that which we fear to lose.  The only antidote is to volitionally celebrate every moment that we do have with those we love.  The moment is all we can be sure of, temporally speaking.  The older I grow, the more I rejoice in the moment.  I think of each precious family member, and even my dog, and I simply can not let myself dwell on my very human tendency to “weep to have”.
 
Margaret L. Been — March 31, 2016

 

 

 

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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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Who can deny that some of life’s most memorable events are spontaneous—those unplanned occasions which we would not have dreamed up in a million years?  Such was a recent serendipitous party in our home, with our granddaughter Leah and her four children.

They dropped in at 3:45 p. m. on the way home after Leah had gathered up the older children at school, to pick up (now 10 year old) Olivia’s birthday gift.  There was no question in my mind, that the visit would be short.  Leah puts in long hours with her family, with helping out at the children’s school—plus riding shotgun on her very endearing but rambunctious 3 year old, Carter.  Still ahead in a long day for this sweet family was a 25 minute ride home, dinner for the children and Daddy Jeff who would soon be at home waiting, and then all the evening rituals—homework, baths, bedtime stories, etc.  (After all these years, I still remember when!)

Olivia’s birthday gift was a St. Vinnee’s mint condition treasure:  a cookbook with 175 recipes for cookies made with cake mixes.  How fun for a 10 year old girl!  And, as it turned out, fun for an 83 year old great-grandpa—my Joe!

Joe was almost as enthusiastic about the cook book as Olivia was.  Right there on the spot he announced, “We are going to make peanut butter cookies NOW!  Although not a gambling woman, I would safely put money on the hunch that Leah’s reaction and mine were in sync.  Yikes!  Late in the day.  Tired.  And, in the beautiful words of poet Robert Frost, “. . . miles to go before I sleep.”

But both Leah and I realized that a spur of the moment cookie party would provide a signature memory for the children—and adults as well.  So into the kitchen went Joe, Olivia, and younger sister, Brynn (in red) who likes to be in the center of any action.

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Over the years, Joe has focused on being a wonderful Husband, Dad, Grandpa, and now Great-Grandpa.  He has cared for us diligently and lovingly.  While he has worked hard at bread-earning, I naturally have tended the affairs of the kitchen.  Joe is very adept at some kitchen jobs.  He makes coffee, measures the carbs in his breakfast cereal (he is diabetic so carbs matter), makes wonderful peanut butter and jam sandwiches, mixes a fantastic soy milk chai for me every night, micro-waves soup or left-over dinners, and sometimes creates yummy Swedish meatballs.

But baking?  The mad search for utensils amid requests of “Where’s this, where’s that?” was too humorous.  We no longer have a gargantuan Kitchen Aid mixer on the counter; all cakes are mixed with a 5-speed hand blender which hides in a  round-about cupboard between assignments.  All dry ingredients live in decorative tins scattered hither and thither; I automatically memorize the contents by the designs on the tins—but since Joe normally has no need for stowed dry ingredients, he has not learned the code.

Thus Joe looked to the dining room table for the small amount of sugar needed in the recipe.  I just happened to wander into the kitchen a split second before he dumped Sweet and Low into the mix—thinking it was real sugar.  I have Sweet and Low in a sugar bowl on our table, for our daughter Judy’s coffee.  How was Joe supposed to know it wasn’t the real thing?

Understandably Joe had not thought of the fact that cookies take a bit of time to prepare, given the rolling of balls—and in the peanut butter cookie instance, criss-crossing with a fork.  Upon my mentioning that the old, battle-seasoned cookie sheets would need a covering of oil, I again forayed into the kitchen just as a pan of cookies was oven-ready—and the raw cookies were swimming in olive oil.

Joe is amazingly proficient at cleaning up as he goes; for this reason I never shudder when he does KP.  In college he earned his meals as a “Pot and Pan” boy, and to this day he loves the challenge of washing up.

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While history was being made in the kitchen, Leah and the boys—Lucas and Carter—played a game at the living room coffee table.

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Well, no one can make cookies without immediately testing them to make sure they are “fit to eat”.  So we are right back to the first photo:

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The coffee table was cleared for a party with cookies and milk.  Delicious!  And thanks to a wonderfully imaginative Great-Grandpa, a good time was had by all.  Joe has always been loaded for fun.  That’s one of the countless reasons why I love him!

Serendipity!

Margaret L. Been, February 2015

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