Faith and Works

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“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:8-10

When a seed has been planted in good soil, life will spring up and grow!  Thus it is with God’s life.  When we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and renewed by His resurrection, the seed of redemption/resurrection will burst forth in some way that is somehow discernible.

In the above passage, the Greek word for “workmanship” is “poiema“, meaning “a thing that is made”.  (Having written poems nearly all my life, since I could wield a pencil or pen, it touches me deeply to realize that our word “poem” comes from “poiema“—perhaps implying that we are God’s poems.)

Since the Ephesian passage (along with countless other Scriptures) categorically states that God made us, and He created us to do “works” which He designated specifically and personally for each of us–-ordained in Eternity Past—it metaphorically blows me away when I hear arguments about and confusion concerning the book of James, which stresses the fact that where there is genuine faith there will be works.

I have a good and very precious friend who loves to challenge me by claiming that the book of James states we are saved by works.  This friend is a new believer who has never sat under disciplined, exegetical teaching.  He plays Bible Leap Frog, jumping here and there without connecting the Scriptural dots, without putting individual verses into the Bible framework from Genesis to Revelation.  So I examine all of James, who has written in 1:17“Every good gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  I find it so obvious, that any good works we Christians may do are included in those “good gifts from above”.

That understanding fits perfectly into Ephesians 2:8-10.  All of my life has been known by God from Eternity Past.  He not only ordained my works, He ordained me to do these works.  When I fail, I very clearly have lost my focus on the Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in His complete Word.

It cannot be stressed enough that when the Holy Spirit works in us, that Spirit will flow from us in a way that defies any human machination.  We love God “because He first loved us” (I John 4:19).  From that love, “works” will flow—as we keep Christ in the center of our lives, acknowledging that He is our Life!  In Colossians 1;10, Paul prays, “That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.

 Throughout the Bible, faith and works are inseparable partners.  When we walk by faith, His works will follow.  Works apart from faith and trust in God, His Sovereignty, and His Lordship of our lives are “wood, hay, and stubble”.  But works that flow from God’s life in us, from our focus on Him, are pre-ordained.

Very clearly, we cannot be saved by human works:  i.e. Isaiah 57:12, Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16 for starters,  And II Timothy 1:9 should clarify any confusion for all time:  “(God) has saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began . . . .”

In the book of James, who was one of the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem, the context of “works” specifically refers to James’s “brethren” (James 1:2).  James is exhorting fellow believers to pray in faith, for wisdom that reflects pure and undefiled religion before God (James 1:27) —from which His works will flow for the welfare and edification of others.  The works are the evidence, not the cause of salvation. 

Perhaps some confusion exists over what constitutes “works”.  Throughout the New Testament, the Greek word for our English word, “works” is “ergon”, meaning a deed, doing, toil, labor, etc.  Works may be obvious public service, but the attitude in which one serves is also part of the deed.  Works begin with a redeemed, renewed heart affecting the way we think, the way we speak, the way we work, the way we relate, and the way we live and breath each moment on earth.  Spirit filled “work” is a worship in myriad forms from building a shelter for the homeless to writing a poem which honors our Savior by affirming life.

Back in 1971, only one week after God had picked me up and plunked me into His Kingdom, my 13 year old daughter said to me:  “Mom, you are “different!”  In that short week, my duties and labors had not changed on the outside.  I was wife, mother of 5, keeper of the home, and tender of 2 dogs and numerous cats.  I baked, cleaned, packed school lunches, drove the van hither and thither, did the laundry for the 7 of us, shopped, nurtured whomever happened to be sick at the time, did the bookkeeping and other office jobs for our business, and produced good meals without fail—just as I had been doing all along.  But suddenly I was “different”, and an intuitive 13 year old noticed.  What had been my works had become God’s work—foreordained for me before the world was formed.

I thank God for drawing me into His Kingdom in 1971.  Every single day since then I have had a choice:  will I allow Him to work through me, or will I try to blunder and bluster along in my own fallen human effort?

There is joy when I rest in the Lord and say, “Thy will be done”.  Christ is the creator of my faith, and the originator of any and all work that honors Him!  Where the seed of redemption and resurrection have been planted in receptive soil, His life will spring forth and grow!

Margaret L. Been — March 19, 2018



Colors and Beyond

“For by Him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:  all things were created by Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist.”                     Colossians 1:16-17

For someone who doesn’t realize that God is working out His perfect plan, the above passage may be a bit of a shock—and perhaps a tough pill to swallow.  Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers?  Really?

Those of us who follow the world news every day on cable television are appalled at the horrific activities of certain “thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers”.  Were I not saved by God’s grace and immersed in His Word, I would be clueless as to the promise of triumphant resolution assured by the fact that “He is before all things, and by Him all things consist”.

The sovereignty of our Lord Jesus Christ is further clarified in Colossians 1:18-19:  “And He is the head of the body, the church:  Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in Him (Christ) should all fullness dwell.”

Preeminence in ALL THINGS!  Those wonderful, freeing words ring in my head whenever I hear someone talking about “putting Jesus first”.  I think I understand what is meant by “putting Jesus first”—at least I hope this means recognizing God’s sovereignty over every area of our lives.  But I would so much rather hear the Scriptural declaration, that He Who is the firstborn has preeminence over every detail of the body, the church—meaning all those of us who have followed Him in His death, burial, and resurrection, and are born again for eternity.

I have an issue with the term “putting Jesus first” because there cannot be a “first” unless it is followed by at least a second—and perhaps a third, fourth, etc.  It simply cannot be. You know that if you are making an outline, a number one tells us that there is going to be at least a number two.  Otherwise the number one is incorrect, misleading, and irrelevant.  Saying that Jesus is number one implies that there are other numbers, or areas of life where Jesus isn’t present.  How scary is that!

When critically thinking to its logical conclusion the “putting Jesus first” concept as opposed to His sovereignty in every detail of life, we run into the abject confusion of “Christian and non-Christian activities”.  The “Jesus is number one” individual may naively think that going to church, passing out Gospel tracts, or singing a hymn is “more spiritual” than weeding the garden or attempting to perfect a Chopin Nocturne on the piano—in the life of an individual who celebrates the preeminence of Christ.  What a potentially depressing concept.  How contradictory to the truth that our Lord is preeminent in all things!

There can be no numbers one, two, etc. in the obedient, abundantly-lived Christian life.  There can only be the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am in Christ when I am reading Scripture and when I am struggling through Chopin’s compositions.   I am in Christ when my body aches all over, and I am in Christ when I feel like the proverbial “million bucks”.

He is preeminent in all things.  I am reminded of that glorious truth every day as I celebrate His life in the works He has foreordained for me—the responsibilities and joys of loving my family and the development of my God-given gifts.  Although I am a sinner saved by Grace, and need the constant discipline of Scripture and prayer in order to focus on Him, Christ is to be Lord over every area of my life.  As one of my most beloved teachers* has famously stated in her Ladies Bible Study of nearly fifty years (I’m paraphrasing) “In Christ, scrubbing a toilet is spiritual”.

When we are focused on Christ we do not find routine labors to be offensive or boring.  These labors are a part of our mission field and they are valid, essential, and glorifying to God.  And the development of natural gifts—arts, crafts, and/or technical skills—is  also a response to Ephesians 2:10. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”, even when we pursue the development of a gift solely for the reason that God gave us the desire to mirror His creativity in the tiniest way simply for our own enjoyment—and hopefully for the enjoyment of others around us.

Just as God put incredibly beautiful flowers on remote mountains and colorful, exotic fish in the ocean depths—mainly to be viewed and appreciated only by Him—He has given the “flowers and fish” of human creativity to individuals who long to reflect a glimpse of His beauty, because they love their Lord.

Rather than being “number one” in my life, the Lord Jesus Christ is my life.  He is wonderful, magnificent, and eternally PREEMINENT IN ALL THINGS! 

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*The Bible teacher referenced here is Judy Dalton, of APPLES OF GOLD MINISTRIES.

Margaret L. Been — April 4th, 2016

Here and Beyond

“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 tear 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 22, 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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“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 breathe, 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 — 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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” ‘On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My Name,’ says the Lord who does this thing.” Amos 9:12 NKJV

“I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them, says the Lord your God.”  Amos 9:15

Many years ago, as a new believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I personally challenged the Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church/Pre-Millennial Return of Christ to reign in Jerusalem/Dispensational view which was taught in the church I attended.

Over a summer through Scriptures and books, I researched the various views of millennium:  Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib, Post-Trib, and  A-Millennial.  If those terms are like the Greek or Russian languages to any of you readers, please GOOGLE the views while comparing and contrasting them with the Abrahamic Covenant as declared in Genesis, numerous Old Testament prophecies, and New Testament writings—especially Romans 9-11, I Corinthians 15:50-52, and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.

From that summer of prayerful digging into Scriptures, I emerged totally and irreversibly convinced of one inescapable truth:  the Pre-Trib Rapture of the Church/Pre-Millennial Return of Christ to reign in Jerusalem/Dispensational view exactly as it was taught in my church.

More clearly than ever before, I saw the distinction between the Church and Israel.  More clearly than ever before I realized that the Jews have been and always will be God’s chosen people.  Because of God’s mercy, we Gentiles and the Church have been grafted in to the Vine which is our Lord Jesus Christ.  Israel is the natural branch—to be restored to the Vine.  Meanwhile, the Church has been grafted in.

Since that summer of learning and growing, I have continued to read and absorb Old Testament prophecies in the light of the Gospels and New Testament letters.  My Bible time is mainly in the evenings, after I have snuggled into bed for the night.  My appetite for eschatology is voracious; I simply cannot get enough of the prophets!

Only a few nights ago I discovered Amos 9:12.  My excitement defies description.  In a proverbial nutshell, this prophetic verse literally resolves any muddy confusion spiritualizing the Church as a “New Israel”.

In Amos 9:12, the descendants of David (the Jews) and the Gentiles (the Christian Church) are categorically differentiated and named as joint occupiers of the millennial kingdom on earth where Christ will reign in Jerusalem.  It seems a person would have to be volitionally deceived and distracted, to miss the glaring truth of that verse—along with countless other Bible passages which dovetail to affirm the Pre-Millennial, Dispensational End Times view.

Recently a woman, who truly loves the Lord and lives for His Glory, stated that she never cared to consider anything to do with the End Times.  She believes Jesus will return sometime, somehow, and that’s enough for her.

This woman challenged me with. “How does studying all those things change your life?”  She questioned the practical value of digging into Scriptures beyond living one’s life at the moment.  I answered that learning about God’s plan for history is an immense comfort to me, a constant source of encouragement and motivation to keep on no matter what.

Now, as I continue to mull over that conversation I realize even more emphatically how seeking to understand the entire Bible increases my passion for the Lord and my desire to live for him.  There is an overriding continuity between Genesis and Revelation and all the pages that lie therein.  How could anyone doubt God’s Word?

Yet constantly God reminds me that any insights I may have, yes even my passion for the Lord and His Word, are the fruit of His Grace and Grace alone.  To God be the Glory!

Knowing God’s plan for “tomorrow” multiplies my joy beyond expression.  As I abide in Him and treasure every moment of “today”, I know beyond all doubt that God literally means what He says.  “I will plant them in their land . . . .”

Margaret L. Been, March 2015


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“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”   Isaiah 9:6-7 KJV

This is the greatest GIFT, the gift of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ Who suffered on an unspeakably cruel cross and died to pay our sin debt—then rose victorious to give us eternal life, HIS abundant life now and forever!  I received this priceless gift of God’s Grace forty-four years ago this coming January.  The GREATEST GIFT!

I was blessed to have parents and a closely bonded extended family and friends who loved life, valued life, and lived by Godly principles.  My grandparents were Bible believing Christians, and in later years I was greatly persuaded that my parents also received the greatest gift—The Lord Jesus Christ.

In my early childhood, family Christmases were somewhat shadowed by a tragedy that had occurred before I was born:  my sister, Shirley, had died at age two on Christmas Day.  Yet Christmas was always a time for celebration, hope, and joy.  We loved being together, we loved the music, we loved the Christmas Story.  And we loved giving and receiving gifts.

In light of the fact that we believers are recipients of the Greatest Gift in Heaven and on the earth, because we are walking around everyday with the very life of God in the Person of His Holy Spirit, the most natural thing to do is to give gifts to family members and friends.  Up until I believed in the Lord Jesus, I naturally loved giving gifts; it was the most wonderful and fun thing to do.  But once I became a believer, God’s Spirit enhanced and blessed our family traditions in such a way that I was, and still am,”over the top” with His joy over our family Christmases.  Our celebrations took on a whole new dimension.

The Christmas worship services, the music (decades of singing in choirs), favorite recipes (which our children looked forward to each year and still serve to this day), the gatherings with laughter and games we played with the children (and still play, as new family games appear on a regular basis), and the tradition of GIVING became so endowed with implicit depth of meaning and God’s love, that it is inconceivable to imagine any other way to live.

As Joe and I raised our six children, extra people at the family dinner table (year round, not just at Christmas) was a given.  Friends were family.  If a child or young adult friend of one of our children hung out in our home, he or she automatically became one of the loved ones; they were included in the food, hilarious games, and the Christmas giving.

What is more fun than giving and receiving?  It’s not about spending a lot of cash.  Although exceptions have been made over the years for some special item or when there is a specific need, it cannot be about spending huge sums.  We have, to date, forty-nine immediate family members, not counting myself.  But even if we were just a handful of folks, it would still be all about loving each person and deciding what would be fun to give—rather than just blowing money.

I love to make gifts.  For years good gifts came out of my oven or off my pantry shelves where bountiful jams and jellies were preserved.  Now we have children, their spouses, and their children who share yummy kitchen creations.  Although I still bake some things, now I am very happy to paint a watercolor, knit a hat for a child (or an adult), design and knit funky, colorful scarves for all ages, and share my homemade soaps in those lovely gift boxes (just inside the door as you enter JoAnn Fabrics, and at other outlets as well).

Throughout the year, my antennae is up when I browse at art fairs, antique malls, and even rummage sales.  By Christmas each year, I’ve managed to acquire a stash for family members and friends who appreciate lovely vintage art glass or a hand crafted piece of stained glass, mosaic, pottery, whatever.

And then there is that fantastic treat, popular as of recent years, the Gift Certificate.  Although that may seem to be a cop-out to some, I think the certs are wonderful.  I tailor them to individuals.  Some of our young families do a lot of home repair and renovation.  Home Depot.  One family member loves Starbucks, but being a diligently frugal young lady she will pass up that luxury on her budget.  I get tremendous pleasure out of giving her a Starbucks cert for her birthday or sometimes Christmas—and picturing her savoring her powerful coffee and perhaps a sweet.  And who doesn’t love Barnes & Noble?  Books and music—something for every preference and taste.

In our mushrooming family, Joe and I have seventeen great-grandchildren ranging from age twelve down to nine months.  Babies typically get little cuddly animals from this Granny—stuffed, not live although I’d love to be given permission to pick out a real kitten or puppy.  That is yet to happen!  The other children?  Books, puzzles, crayons, etc.  It’s easy, almost a “DUH”, to find gifts for young people.  In fact, all ages are easy, when you long to give some little token of your love and thoughtful consideration.

I constantly find wonderful cooking and crafting books (mostly like new) at a nearby St. Vinnie’s.  Again, these gift books are tailored to the recipients and their hobbies and interests.  How rewarding is that!  I have delighted someone’s heart, for all of $2.19 or thereabout.

Underlying it all is the fact that we love because He first loved us.  We give because He has given to us—that Greatest Gift of salvation and eternal life.  Giving is sharing.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s gift of love, we simply can’t not share with those whom we love.  When we are filled to overflowing with God’s Word and His gift of grace, we are delighted to graciously receive and enjoy the gifts which our loved ones have thoughtfully selected or made for us.

Christmas!  A stress-free time of joy.  That doesn’t mean that our circumstances are all perfect, at all times.  For many years our celebration centered at our home, and I fed a lot of people.  Granted, sometimes I felt a bit stun-gunned when the season was over, because I had spent physical and emotional energy far beyond any that I possessed.  But God has always given me what I needed, to serve Him by serving people.  And stun-gunned though I was, it was with a sense of purpose and great blessing that I “collapsed” into a quieter routine (as quiet as a routine can be when raising six children).  I knew that God was the center of my giving (as well as my “giving out”) and I rested in Him.  I still do.  It’s the only way to live, and it’s the only way I want to live!

We have had poignant holidays in the wake of bereavement over loss.  We have had tearful Christmases when circumstances were nearly devastating due to a loved one’s rebellious decisions.  Four Christmases ago Joe and I were a wall apart in hospital beds, beginning the arduous recovery from major surgeries both occurring in a space of a few hours a couple of days before Christmas.

But it was still, and always will be, Christmas.  The Grinch can’t steal it and neither can illness, family sorrows, death, economic circumstances, or any of the world’s weighty problems.  Christmas!  If a metaphorical Grinch were to come on Christmas Eve and confiscate our trees and our lights and our presents, it would still be Christmas and we would still be giving—because in all of our giving we are giving ourselves, and giving to our Lord the thanksgiving and glory which He deserves.  If we have nothing to give, we will still give somehow in some way.

Christmas is stress-free and joyous—a time to celebrate the loving and giving that we treasure around the year.  We love because He first loved us.  And we give, because He has given us THE GREATEST GIFT.  It would be unthinkable to do anything else but give when we have received so much!  Merry Christmas!

Margaret Been, December 23rd, 2014

Note:  On the bottom left side of the above photo, you will see a charming manger scene created out of popsicle sticks, bits of cloth, and miscellaneous odds and ends.  This was custom-made for Joe and me a few years ago by four great-grandchildren under the supervision of their Mom—our granddaughter, Alicia. 

If you look closely on the bottom left, you will see little bits of white and purple under or beside the people:  Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus in His manger bed, and a shepherd.  The little bits are sheep, fashioned from pipe cleaners and dabs of white material, by Alicia’s youngest child—less than two years old at the time if I recall correctly.  Now that is a gift to treasure forever!

Afternoon of Hope

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.”  Ephesians 4:14-15

Regarding human relationships, “speaking the truth in love” may be one of the most difficult of Biblical mandates to apply convincingly.  As a writer, I want to write truth.  Even my rare forays into fiction writing have been based on reality.  In my poems, the truths I see are couched in metaphorical language—yet they are life as I have seen and lived it.

As a Christian, I find that being a writer is sometimes a terrible burden.  When I sense that something is “off”, I can’t not write about it.  I actually have a lot more fun writing a couple of my other blogs which have to do with art, teacups, knitting, and gardens, but when burdened with a pressing issue the fun has to wait.

My antenna goes up over issues involving the Christian churches in America today—many of which have forsaken Scripture and heeded the demons lurking in our popular culture.  One of those cultural demons, I believe, is the vastly popular Alternative Health Movement.  Certainly good health is a worthy goal.  Certainly we need to consider what we eat and how much, for optimum health.  Certainly we may need nutritional supplements.  Obviously there are plants and herbs which sooth and/or heal, like aloe on burns.

But as Christians we need to be leery of the New Age implications behind some Alternative Health practices.  We need to closely examine the all- to-prevalent view (even among some Bible believers) that physicians and pharmaceuticals are guilty until proven innocent.  And we need to examine the fact that countless people naïvely go without necessary health care and some even die prematurely—due to a skewed mindset, yes even a prejudice against legitimate, laboratory tested medical science.

I firmly believe that Alternative Health is a Trojan Horse in many Christian circles today.  A case in point is the vegetarian craze.  Yes, red meat consumption should be moderate.  Yes, we need vegies of all colors, and a plethora of beautiful fruits on our tables.  But yes, we also need to examine I Timothy 4:1-4, and the warning of seducing spirits in the latter times, commanding to abstain from meat.

In writing about health issues, I’m painfully aware that my words may wound precious individuals who have not experienced my concern.  In being a “whistle blower”, I never mean any kind of criticism of people whose ideas differ from mine.  Admittedly I get personally worked up over the issue, but certainly not at the people who have been involved.  I react and write personally because I’ve witnessed the tragedy of a dear friend who, for years, has poured time and hard earned money into alternative health fads which simply have not helped.  Still this friend refuses medical help, and she is virtually an invalid.

And even more personally, I write about the Alternative Health Movement because I myself was confused at another time and another place.  So many Christians had hooted up a fear of doctors, and a championing of all things natural, that for over a decade I refused to use asthma inhalers which a wise physician had prescribed for me.  Instead I did all the recommended vitamin supplements and nutrients, and minded my vegies and fruit.  Instead I grew sicker and sicker, to a point where I lacked the energy to travel five hours in our car for a family visit.

Finally, in 2005, I agreed to go to a medical doctor.  But I picked an osteopath as I believed that she would be a “holistic medicine” person prescribing some new supplement—rather than prescription drugs, which I feared.  Well, that doctor was not “holistic”, but she certainly was a “whole” doctor!  She read me out, when she saw the list of supplements and vitamins I’d been persuaded to take—and she quite categorically stated that my alternative health care and lack of legitimate medicine had made me so sick.

The osteopath ordered a battery of pulmonary tests which revealed the beginning of emphysema (even though I’d put out my last cigarette way back in 1963).  With this life-changing information, I woke up to reality and common sense.  Now, after faithfully inhaling my inhalers (yes, one of them was a STEROID!) for a few years, I am now symptom free much of the time!  The inhalers are right here in my computer desk drawer, for those rare occasions when I need them.

Yes, I am burdened by the onslaught of Alternative Health measures accessed by Bible believing Christians—and yes, I must write the truth as I see it.  But I sincerely want to write the truth in love.  That is my heart’s desire! 

Then I can get on with writing about art, teacups, knitting, and beautiful gardens!  🙂

Margaret L. Been — December 2014