life’s blood

“It is not sin as we see it that was laid on Christ but sin as God sees it,
not sin as our conscience feebly reveals it to us but sin as God beholds it in all its unmitigated
malignity and unconcealed loathsomeness.
Sin, in its exceeding sinfulness, Jesus has put away.
But when we perceive sin, then we are to trust the blood.”

Charles Spurgeon


(detail from Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim altarpiece, 1512-1516, Musée Unterlinden, Colmar)

Every 3 months or so, I have to go in for blood work.
I go in primarily for the checking of my thyroid levels.
I have a roller coaster for a thyroid.
Up and down…never just one or the other.

They call that not hypo or hyperthyroidism but rather Hashimoto’s Disease…meaning my thyroid levels
fluctuate both up and or down with no specific rhyme or reason.

A thyroid is a gland in the neck, near the larynx, that regulates the body’s metabolic rate…
It helps to regulate the heart, the digestive system, muscle control, bone growth, and even one’s moods.
It’s a small gland but hugely important.

So I must take a synthetic thyroid hormone to help keep mine working as it should.
The bloodwork lets the doctors know if they need to change the strength either up or down.

Since I go in to see my doctor next week, I needed to go in for the bloodwork today, a week prior.

I’m not afraid of needles nor am I afraid of seeing blood–that being the blood of others
not so much keen on seeing my own—

As an Art teacher, my kids were accidentally yet constantly, as in all the time,
cutting their hands with either razor blades or the gouges we used in printmaking—
in turn, leading them to freak out.
And so my girl scout and first-aid training would kick into action–
direct pressure and hold above the heart, call the school nurse.

So whereas I don’t enjoy being stuck and drained as if a vampire had gotten a hold of me,
being stuck doesn’t really bother me.

So there I was sitting with my sleeve rolled up, tourniquet tied tight, fist clenched
while my head turned elsewhere looking away lest I might possibly faint…
other’s blood, no problem— my blood, small problem.

But I mindlessly chattered with the phlebotomist, praying she’ll take off that blasted tourniquet that
was squeezing the life from my arm, and before I knew it, we were done.

She gathered her needed vials—

Three vials of blood.

Vials that will tell my doctor where my current thyroid levels rest.
They will tell her that my cholesterol is most likely up.
They will tell her whether there are any vitamin deficiencies in my body.
They will tell her if there is any sort of infection in my body– as in high white blood cells.
They will tell her if my liver enzymes are still too high as in fatty.
They will tell her if the Hemochromatosis is out of sorts.
They will tell her if my hormones are awry.
They will tell her if there is inflammation.
They can tell her if there might be a cancer.
They can tell her if I have celiac disease or any other number of diseases.
And if I were a much younger woman, they could tell her whether or not I was pregnant.

All of that and more from three small vials of blood pulled directly from a vein.

Amazing really.

And whereas some of the results may not be necessarily pleasing, the results can, in turn,
be life-saving.

My thoughts quickly shifted from the notion of medical information to that of
the essential necessity of life’s sustaining blood.

The doctor can tell so much from just a couple of vials of blood–life or death things…
but the one thing she can’t tell is whether the blood in my veins is merely mine or that
of the blood of the lamb…

The Bible is rife with tales of the importance of blood.

The African Research Review offers this insight:
“From the earliest times, God had insisted on blood sacrifice as the ground upon which He was to be approached.
As God’s revelatory act and the corresponding relationship developed,
the Levitical sacrifices had to be systematized and made an integral part of the Hebrew religion.
Blood-related sacrifice to the Jew, therefore, was an ultimate demand from God resulting in a unique relationship.”

The significance of Blood sacrifice in the Old Testament could, therefore,
be seen in its union with God, from whom man distanced himself due to disobedience to set norms.
This union eventually culminates in substitution, for the fact that punishment for sin cannot be averted.
The concept of substitution has to do with taking the place of the actual culprit.
In citing Moraldi, Gabriel Abe (2004:26) said that the offerer is substituting his life with the victim
in order to undertake his deserved punishment as a result of his sins or wrong doing committed with Israel…
the blood sacrifice was obligatory in cleansing.
Blood is life (Lev. 17:11, 14) and to shed blood, a victim must be killed in place of the sacrificer.

According to Biblesprout.com

The blood of humans and animals is a high complex fluid which contains cells,
various forms of nourishment for tissues, oxygen, disease antibodies, hormones and other
substances which, when in balance, maintain health and well being.
Thus, the life of the flesh (i.e., the whole body) is indeed “in the blood.”
(THE OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES — LEVITICUS, p. 181).

Blood is known to be a vital principle of the physical body.
The discovery of the circulation of the blood was revolutionary in the study of anatomy.
In more recent years it has been demonstrated that the health of the body depends on the
rapidity of the blood flow; and blood transfusions are an accepted means of prolonging life.
(THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS, C. R. Erdman, p. 81).

The Bible does say for the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11);
for it is the life of all flesh (Leviticus 17:14);…
for the blood is the life (Deuteronomy 12:23).

The blood represents life, and so sacred is life before God that the blood of animals was used
in all offerings for sin as man’s vicarious substitute (atonement)
under the Mosaic (Old Testament) law.

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood;
and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Hebrews 9:22

Only as atonement is linked with death, the shedding of blood, and not life set free,
would it appear to become efficacious in the covering of human sin.

Enter the need for a substitute…
no amount of sacrifice or the letting of animal or human blood can expunge the sin of mankind.

Enter the Lamb.

“The regulations concerning the sacredness of blood are full of spiritual meaning for the Christian.
In addition to justification and forgiveness through the blood of Christ (see Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7),
the Christian gains access to God in faith (Hebrews 10:22),
experiences victory over evil (Revelation 12:11), and obtains eternal glory (Revelation 7:19).
The death of Christ has brought new life into being for mankind by atoning for us in a manner completely
beyond our own human abilities to perform.
(TYNDALE OLD TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES– LEVITICUS, pp. 182,183).

(Dr. Elmer Towns)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,
according to the riches of his grace,

Ephesians1:7

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

if I only had a heart…

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional
memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child.
This is a healing memory; it brings hope.”

Pope Benedict XVI


(mother’s kitchen funnel has seen better days / Julie Cook / 2018)

This pitiful image of what was once my mother’s kitchen funnel, that I have
obviously “loved” to death by overuse and wash, always reminds me of the hat of
the head of the tinman from the Wizard of Oz…
albeit a kitchen funnel and not an oil funnel.

Who can forget Jack Haley singing…if I only had a heart…

When a man’s an empty kettle he should be on his mettle,
And yet I’m torn apart.
Just because I’m presumin’ that I could be kind-a-human,
If I only had heart.
I’d be tender – I’d be gentle and awful sentimental
Regarding Love and Art.
I’d be friends with the sparrows …
and the boys who shoots the arrows
If I only had a heart.
Picture me – a balcony. Above a voice sings low.
Wherefore art thou, Romeo? I hear a beat…
How sweet.
Just to register emotion, jealousy – devotion,
And really feel the part.
I could stay young and chipper
and I’d lock it with a zipper,
If I only had a heart.

Wizard Of Oz – If I Only Had A Brain/Heart/Nerve Lyrics

If I only had a heart…

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

To remove the heart of stone and receive the heart of flesh…

And so it seems on that fateful day when an apple was received and in turn eaten,
two hearts grew hard…
spawning a spiraling outward of generational stone hardened hearts.

Shuttered hearts.
Closed hearts…
turned cold

Yet all the while the mind deludes, claiming otherwise.

The mind convinces the heart to remain closed and hardened,
otherwise, there will be pain, weakness, and vulnerability…

C.S Lewis says it this way…

“There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one,
not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements;
lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken;
it will become
unbreakable,
impenetrable,
irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.

The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers
and perturbations of love is…
Hell.”

Yet it was the famed English preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who had previously addressed this
notion of the heart of stone.

“Spurgeon surmised that the stony heart is, specifically:
cold,
hard,
dead,
not easily softened and utterly senseless.

He said the person with the hard heart is “Satan’s throne.”
And he said the hard heart is “impervious to all instrumentality,”

(Cliff Vaughn)

In a sermon delivered in 1887 Spurgeon addresses the hardened heart:

Hardness of heart is a great and grievous evil.
It exists not only in the outside world,
but in many who frequent the courts of the Lord’s house.
Beneath the robes of religion many carry a heart of stone.

Nothing good can come out of a stony heart;
it is barren as a rock.
To be unfeeling is to be unfruitful.
Prayer without desire,
praise without emotion,
preaching without earnestness — what are all these?
Like the marble images of life, they are cold and dead.

Yet he reminds us that all is not lost.

The Holy Spirit makes us like wax, and we become impressible to his sacred seal.
Remember, you that are hard of heart, that your hope lies this way;
God himself, who melts the icebergs of the northern sea,
must make your soul to yield up its hardness in the presence of his love.
Nothing short of the work of God within you can effect this.
“Ye must be born again,” and that new birth must be from above.
The Spirit of God must work regeneration in you.
He is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham;
but until he works you are dead and insensible.
Even now I perceive the goings forth of his power:
he is moving you to desire his divine working,
and in that gracious desire, the work has already begun.

Note next, that as this tenderness comes of the Spirit of God,
so it also comes by his working in full co-operation with the Father and with the Son.

We hear the Father say, “I will pour upon the house of David the spirit of grace,”
(angelfire.com)

And so it is from that same genealogical house–the house of David which is born the Grace
which is our hope from the impenetrable death found in the stone cold heart.

It is a hope found in the genealogical line from Abraham, to David, to the Christ.

Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David,
fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon,
and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah.
(Matthew 1:17)

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,
to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and
was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
(Luke 2:4-7)

And so the genealogical line of hardened hearts, hearts which once seemed destined to reside
closed for all time and destined to spend an eternity in Hell,
will be broken…broken by the gift found in a genealogical line of hope,
the gift found in the birth of a single child…

And a little child shall lead them (Isaiah 11:6)

Leading once stone hardened hearts, now broken by Grace, to healing found only in Salvation.

love vs change

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times, He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon


(beauty found in shelf fungus / Julie Cook / 2018)

“I am sent not only to love God but to make Him loved.
It is not enough for me to love God, if my neighbor does not love Him.”

St. Vincent de Paul

repentance, forgivness and forgetting…..

“If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self,
I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon


(Scrooge and the Spirit of Christmas Past / A Christmas Carol / 1951)

I recently caught a news story this past week coming out of the Vatican,
and thankfully this story had nothing to do with the wording or
re-wording of the Lords’ Prayer.

Pope Francis is criticizing journalists who dredge up old scandals and sensationalize the news, saying it’s a “very serious sin” that hurts all involved.

Francis, who plans to dedicate his upcoming annual communications message to “fake news,” told Catholic media on Saturday that journalists perform a mission that is among the most “fundamental” to democratic societies.

But he reminded them to provide precise, complete and correct information and not to provide one-sided reports.

The pope said: “You shouldn’t fall into the ‘sins of communication:’ disinformation, or giving just one side, calumny that is sensationalized, or defamation, looking for things that are old news and have been dealt with and bringing them to light today.”

He called those actions a “grave sin that hurts the heart of the journalist and hurts others.”
ABC News (ironically enough)

The News media does seem to really enjoy the digging up of the past, particularly if
said past was a sensational sort of past—
heinous, gruesome, odious, or simply grievous.

Never mind that whatever it was has been dealt with and is now left in
the past… as those involved have either healed and or moved on—
The Media must be bored or simply enjoys opening old wounds.
They can’t seem to move on….let alone, dare it be said, forgive and then forget.

Watching one of the most recent episodes of Anglican unscripted,
Bishop Gavin Ashenden was addressing the latest befuddlement plaguing the
Church of England.
It seems that the current powers that be, i.e. the Archbishop of Canturbury,
Justin Welby, has been racing to cast judgement on one of their own, now long dead
yet greatly esteemed, clergy members, The Rt Rev George Bell (1883-1958),
former Archbishop of Canterbury.

The story is playing out that a now elderly woman, who doesn’t exactly have all her ‘remembrances’ in order or even in the right places or buildings, etc seems to
recollect that perhaps a member of the clergy had molested her when she was a
young girl and maybe it was Archbishop George Bell.

Well rather than sorting through the facts and accusations and remembrances….
or questioning the very murky recollections of a now very elderly woman, the current Archbishop and others have raced to cast judgement on this long deceased but highly esteemed clergyman.

And Bishop Ashenden, for one, is crying foul.

Bishop Ashenden, who does have a background and degree in Law, points out that
much of the logic here is all wrong. The handling of all of this by the Church has
been all wrong. And the reaction by the current sitting Archbishop is all wrong.

There is not nor has there been any corroboration to this woman’s story as others who,
now equally as elderly, in the same care of the Archbishop at the time—
as it was during the War and many displaced and refugee children had been taken in by
the Church with Archbishop Bell acting as overseer, do not ever recall any such
instances let alone remember this woman.

So Bishop Ashenden is publicly demanding that Archbishop Welby apologize for racing to
damning the dead while exploiting the troubled “remembrances” of an elderly woman.

The good Bishop notes that as Christians, repentance is such an integral part
of our faith.
“It is what sets us apart form all other religions other than perhaps Judaism.”
Yet to be able to acknowledge a wrong seems to be one of the most difficult things
for human beings to own up to. Just as it is equally difficult to utter
those three little words— “I am sorry.”

But what is “genius” about our faith, the good Bishop extols, is indeed that very fact
of repentance and forgiveness—as that is the very reason Jesus came into the world…
That we should repent and forgive, just as our Father in Heaven forgives us.

Yet how hard it is for us to ever admit that we have erred, that we have made a mistake,
that we were wrong and are heartily sorry…and so in turn, please forgive me.

So where the current Archbishop has not afforded a fair critique of this matter but
rather has raced to the shut and closed condemnation, before even having sorted
fact from fiction,
is incredulous as he now owes everyone on every side of this story,
an apology–

Yet that very act, that very Christian of acts, appears to be far from the
ability of this very prominent vicar of Christ…

If an Archbishop can’t say that he is sorry or that he has perhaps over reacted or not thought something thoroughly through, how on earth can he ever ask the same,
that notion of repentance and forgiveness, from others….

Anglican Unscripted – commentary on Welby’s intransigence on +George Bell – and Dame Sarah Mullally, ‘bishop-to-be’ of London.

And as I had just finished watching the video segment about this story on Anglican Unscripted, I went on to find the following observations by St John Kilmakos—
a commentary of points on that very thing…the remembrance of wrongs and
the ultimate in forgiveness.

2. Remembrance of wrongs is the consummation of anger, the keeper of sins, hatred of righteousness, ruin of virtues, poison of the soul, worm of the mind, shame of prayer, stopping of supplication, estrangement of love, a nail stuck in the soul, pleasureless feeling beloved in the sweetness of bitterness, continuous sin, unsleeping transgression, hourly malice.

3. This dark and hateful passion, I mean remembrance of wrongs, is one of those that are produced but have no offspring. That is why we do not intend to say much about it.

4. He who has put a stop to anger has also destroyed remembrance of wrongs; because childbirth continues only while the father is alive.

5. He who has obtained love has banished revenge; but he who nurses enmities stores up for himself endless sufferings.

6. A banquet of love dispels hatred, and sincere gifts soothe a soul.
But an ill-regulated banquet is the mother of boldness, and through the window of love gluttony leaps in.

—St. John Klimakos
The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

And so it is….we find in our repentance and sincere sense of regret and sorrow
for our misdeeds coupled by our forgiveness—
forgiveness from God which in turn produces forgiveness from one another
as well as from ourselves….and it is here where true Love is really to be found.
That Jesus Christ was born to save us from our constant state of wrongdoing…
otherwise known as sin.
And as we are forgiven, we in turn are to forgive—
and as is with the Father…He forgives and He forgets…..

I thank him who has given me strength,
Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful,
appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor,
and insolent opponent.
But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance,
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,
of whom I am the foremost.
But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost,
Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who
were to believe in him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:12-16

God being God

Consider what you owe to His immutability.
Though you have changed a thousand times,
He has not changed once.

Charles Spurgeon


(dragonfly rests in the meadow / Julie Cook .

“So often we try to fit God in a box, making God be what we want him to be.
That can bring a lot of frustrations.
But letting God be God can be incredibly freeing.”

Lauren Green

submission

It is, perhaps, one of the hardest struggles of the Christian life to learn this sentence –
“Not unto us,
not unto us,
but unto Thy name be glory.”

– Charles Spurgeon

5a966797f14f6810dda6251e7cb4fe16
(image of Mary, Illuminated Manuscript)

Jesus.
The name of our Lord and of my Order [The Society of Jesus]
shall be the first word I write in the New Year.
The name stands for all the things I desire when I pray, believe and hope;
for inner and outer redemption;
for relaxation of all the selfish tensions and limitations I place
in the way of the free dialogue with God,
all the barriers to voluntary partnership and surrender without reserve:
and for a speedy release from these horrible fetters.
The whole situation is so palpably unjust;
things I have neither done nor even known about are keeping me here in prison. ”

The name Jesus stands also for all that I intended to do in the world,
and still hope to do among mankind. To save, to stand by ready to give immediate help,
to have goodwill towards all men, and to serve them. I still owe much to so many.

And in conclusion the Order, too, is embraced in my invocation of this name–
the Order which has admitted me to its membership.
May it be personified in me.
I have pledged myself to Jesus as his loving comrade and blood-brother.

The Name stands for passionate faith, submission, selfless effort and service.

Excerpt from Fr. Alfred Delp’s diary
January 1, 1945

In 1944, at the time of Father Delp’s arrest and subsequent trial for treason against the Nazi State,
the young Jesuit’s date for his profession of his final vows as a priest had been
indefinitely postponed.
And as Hitler had decreed that no priest was to study for the priesthood,
as he had shuttered all seminaries, Delp’s friends arranged to have a priest, a confrere
with full support of the German Catholic Church, visit Delp while in prison in Berlin.
He would hear Delp’s profession and receive him fully into his order.

The visiting priest, Father Tattenbach,
knew that he had to disguise his visit as merely a sympathetic gesture offered to
a condemned prisoner.
The visit could have no whiff of official Church business as such had been long outlawed.
Nor could he let it be known what the two men were actually doing.
He also feared that the prison guards would be suspicious especially as the vows
were to be made in Latin…
he worried the guards would think that they talking in code while passing secrets.

So Fr Tattenbach explained that he was going to be praying with Fr Delp in Latin
and actually wrote out what he would be saying in German…
yet the guards remained suspicious hovering about as the two men
entered into a sacred, holy and solemn moment in time…
and oddly allowed the two men to conduct their most important “prayer session”…

To be submissive.

It is a word that is growing ever more difficult to act upon as our
society deems the act of submission to be a serious and egregious act of weakness…
Something that is to be scorned, reviled and forbidden.

The negative connotations associated with acts of submission are endless.
Particularly as the militant feminist movement has cast the word into the realm of all things taboo.
As they claim that the very word seethes with all things vile and odious in nature.

Yet throughout this season of Advent,
we are constantly reminded of what complete and utter submission looks like.
It begins in the form of Mary’s selfless, obedient and submissive willingness to play a part in God’s grand plan…
spanning the chasm of time to the Springtime reminder of that same selfless,
obedient and submissive willingness offered freely by her son as he walks from
the start of his life in that obscure stable to his destiny on Golgotha.

And thankfully there remains those few souls among us who make wide their beings…
opening and allowing for the totally emptying of self.
They forgo all aspects of their own wellbeing…
in turn allowing for the betterment of all humankind… at the cost of their own existence.
They act as our polestar.

And just as Father Delp demonstrated,
with hands chained and a noose waiting to be placed around his neck,
submission to the service of God is an act so much greater than any fettered or
tethered limitation imposed by man.

So may we, this season of Advent, learn the importance of submission…
May we be both strong and courageous as we learn to yield our hearts, minds and our very beings
to the will of the One True God…

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.
For there is no authority except from God,
and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Romans 13:1

Once again…

True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance.
It is far deeper than that–
it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Charles Spurgeon

DSCN3259
(broken sand dollar in the surf / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

Once again we are called to offer our prayers, our hearts, our thoughts to God for
ambushed and murdered police officers.
Our prayers are offered upward for these officers and their families who are left wondering why.

Not that these officers were unaware or naive to the dangers of their job, their calling..
The potential that each day could be the day that they are called upon to offer their all…
Yet to be ambushed…purposefully and willfully cut down…in cold blooded murder…
is difficult to process.

We wonder, we worry, if we are now growing numb and jaded to the almost daily news of
the heinous taking of life …
Numb to the daily images of grieving families…wives now widows, children now without a parent…
As a part of our society has decided that any and all police officers are no longer worthy of living…

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8