Blood of the Lamb

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona nobis pacem.

Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us peace.

Agnes Dei / taken for the Church of England’s Common Worship)

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(watercolor / Julie Cook / 2011)

The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
Exodus 12:13

God made a promise to His people that when the plagues descended upon Egypt
as a punishment to Egyptian people and their king, Pharaoh,
who kept the Israelites as captive slaves,
that He would spare the homes that were marked with the blood of
the sacrificial animals. . .the Spirit and Shadow of Death would “Pass Over”
the home marked with the blood,
yet woe to the unmarked homes as the Spirit of Death would claim the first born
of each home…

To be marked by the blood of the Lamb,
To be washed clean by the blood of the Lamb
To be saved by the blood of the Lamb.

I claim that blood today and everyday of my life,
to be marked, once again, on the threshold of my own home.
The sacrificial and saving blood of Jesus Christ.

Last evening, Lara Logan of 60 Minutes presented the story entitled Iraq’s Christians Persecuted by ISIS.
This Iraqi sect of Christianity, whose very inception dates to the 1st century–
to the time of the earliest followers of Jesus crucified,
sits precariously perched on the front lines between madness and annihilation.
The spoken language is Aramaic, the same ancient dialect of Jesus–
the only known group of Christians to still worship in His language.
Only a handful of monks remain in the 3rd century monastic stronghold and monastery
of St Matthews whose vista is a beautiful valley as old as time and yet eerily sits four miles from the Islamic State controlled border.

(click on the link to read and view the full story
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iraq-christians-persecuted-by-isis-60-minutes/ )

These Northern Iraqi Christians, whose existence has flowed out the
fertile Nineveh plains of ancient Mesopotamia for almost 2000 years,
have withstood the kingdoms of Persia, the Ottomans, The Mongols and Kurds,
yet sadly it appears that there is one group who may actually have the final say
in the existence or final death of these ancient Christians…
The Islamic State also known as IS or ISIS or simply in Arabic as Da’esh.

The northern Iraqi city of Mosel now stands front and center as a
symbol of Da’esh occupation.
It is in Mosel, as well as the surrounding villages,
that these ancient Christians have claimed their home for nearly 2000 years.
Within the past several months roughly 125,000 Christians,
as well as clergy and monks, have fled due to Da’esh persecutions.

The homes of known Christians, as well as their churches,
are marked with a red spray painted arabic letter N which is the first
letter of the arabic word for Christian or Nasrani or Nazarene.

Nasrani-N-Twitter
(image taken from the web)

What an interesting irony it is to a different time and occupying force that once identified the homes and worship centers of a different group of people with a single yellow symbol.

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(image used from Virginia Edu.)

Have we not learned?
Does history teach us nothing?

The identified Christians, whose homes are marked,
are told that they must convert, pay exorbitant fees to the occupiers and /
or face “the sword”–the now familiar beheadings of those who oppose IS.
The threat is real as children and wives are often taken as an incentive for
conversion.
IS also states that the Islamic law prescribes that girls age of 10 and older
are to be married off.
Escape seems to be the only option.

The priests and monks who Ms. Logan interviewed are now refugees themselves,
having sought refuge in Kurdistan, as they too have fled their churches.
They left with very little of the holy treasures which have been entrusted to
them for thousands of years which were the very building blocks of their
heritage and faith…which are in turn building blocks to our heritage and faith.

Many articles and manuscripts date back to the 1st century.
Sadly those treasures, those pieces of our global Christian heritage of both
faith and history, which were left behind, have most likely been burned and
destroyed by IS.
Just as we see in the images of the desecration of ancient churches.

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(This image taken from the web, IJReveiw)

This image from the UK’s Daily Mail shows an IS militant taking a sledge hammer
to the tomb of the Prophet Jonah who Christians, Jews and Muslims all revere.

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I just don’t know what the World, the global family of humanity, needs to see,
needs as evidence, in order to stand up… taking not merely an interest
but taking a stand, as to what is currently taking place.

The Obama Administration continues to refuse to call the attacks on the Christians
of Iraq, Syria, Egypt, etc as “Christian Persecution”

When asked by Logan, Archbishop Nicodemus Sharaf responded to what could be done,
what could be done by those “good” Muslims…
he stated that they could “Speak up. Of course, there is good people of
the Islam people. There is not all Muslim people [that] are bad.
I believe. But where is the good people? Where is their voice? Nothing.
Few. Few.

He then adds, “They take everything from us, but they cannot take the God from our hearts, they cannot.”

This 60 Minutes story comes on the heels of the latest news regarding the
“US Military Hit List” composed by IS.
It is a list of one hundred military personnel and their families—
names, addresses, personal information…
a seemingly harmless list yet actually a vile and sinister list
as it is a list intended for death.
IS has called upon all jihadists to kill these 100 individuals
and their families.

The information however was not hacked, not stolen but rather gathered
easily from Social Networks such as Facebook and even from Governmental
websites.

I just don’t know what it’s going to take for the free world to take
notice of the fact that the freedoms we all seem to take for granted are
sitting on a very fragile glass table and there are those who stand
ready with sledge hammers to smash the table and all that sits upon
it into oblivion. . .

I will close with a favorite quote I’ve often used before…
it is debated if this quote was first used by Dietrich Bonhoeffer or
by Martin Niemöller–both German Lutheran pastors imprisoned in
the Nazi Death Camps–
Bonhoeffer eventually being executed and
Niemöller being released at the end of the war.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to
speak up.”

–Pastor Martin Niemöller, 1945

Coming and going

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life. I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
Maya Angelou

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(a threesome of gulls, Henderson State Park, Destin, Florida / Julie Cook / 2014)

I don’t know whether it’s like this in other professions nor do I know if others feel as deeply about such issues as say as educators do. . .

One of the most difficult things I discovered early on in my teaching career was how difficult the transition of moves, transfers and retirements of colleagues could all be on one’s heart. Add to that the teaching of high school kids. Those young wards one would receive into one’s class as 9th graders–those awkward young folks perched somewhere between childhood and adulthood. The mission was to teach and nurture these ever-changing individuals for 4 years–watching them grow, learn and then, as life would have it, they would graduate, moving to the next stage of life—most of which would take a huge emotional toll on their teachers as one would have grown quite accustomed to their presence..

Coming and Going.

In teaching, especially working in a specific school, the staff and personnel become much like an extended family—just as such held true in my own community and in the school system in which I spent the majority of my life.
My colleagues becoming my extended family.

We shared the teaching, instructing and guiding of other’s children. We shared the joys, the sorrows, the nurturing of our own children, the comings and goings of spouses, the trials and obstacles of life, crises in health, births of children, losses of parents. . . just like any big family who would live life together day in and day out.

Yet oddly such transitions of life, those of the moves, the graduations and the retirements, no longer seemed to carry the same sense of permeant loss—as we now find ourselves living in an age of vast technology. It seems as if we now have 24/7 access to one another–much more so than ever before. We now have e-mail which can be delivered, read and responded to almost immediately. We can text at any given time, day or night, and we have grown to expect an instantaneous response— growing rather anxious if such does not occur within a reasonable amount of time, say 2 minutes. We have Twitter which allows others to peer into our psyche at any given moment, we have FaceBook which shares the glimpses of our daily lives with the entire world. We are morphing into the transparent while being constantly connected.

And so as it is time, once again, to say good-by to yet another colleague, friend and extended family member—hearts are once again filled with that familiar sense of angst.
No longer will there be the physical and tangible interactions. Different individuals will now fill the roles we all once filled. Life experiences will no longer overlap–as being from the same community will no longer exist. Teams cheered on to victory will no longer be the same. Life’s daily living will now be different.

Yet communication will remain instant and quick. A quick text of “hi, how’s it going?” A quick e-mail or Facebook view will immediately catch one another up to speed as to the big and small events taking place in life.
The distance seemingly not so vast.
A comfort of heart. . .

And yet the physical touch, a hand on a shoulder, a glimpse of eye contact captured when two similar minds and thoughts collide during a conference, a quick Saturday lunch to play catch up all coupled by that beautiful smile will all be deeply felt and now sorely missed.

Whereas we seem so much more connected than ever before with unlimited and instant access, it is still, and will always be, the physical contact which makes all the difference in the world–the other stuff, the technology and instant this and that merely softens the blow. Technology may unite us quickly but it can never replace the physical face to face interactions of daily life. One may see tears when Skyping, but no hand my reach out to wipe them away.

I will miss you Beth.

The hidden things you do not know

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
Jeremiah 33:3

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(a pair of Cardinals/ Julie Cook / 2014)

The still small voice of God

Would we not assume it to be LOUD, LARGE, BIGGER THAN LIFE, ATTENTION GRABBING?
Yet experience teaches that God does not operate as we do or as we would–which is truly our blessing.

We might think a big name Ad agency should be hired. High tech, glitzy commercials, billboards, neon lights. . . run a spot during the Super Bowl—yeah that’s it, the Super Bowl. Use George Clooney or Heidi Klum as a spokesperson.
Offer some sort of give away—a new iPad, a new camera, a new car. A five nights, all expenses paid, trip to Disney–yeah that’s it, Disney.

Maybe we should Google the reviews to that Still Small Voice.
How many likes?
How many followers?
Has it been tweeted?
Can we follow it on FaceBook?
Has it opened on the NYSE?
Does it have a blog?
Can we clip a coupon, getting a discount?
Door busters, that’s it, does it offer a door buster to those who are the first to hear it?
Does its doors open extra early?
Does it offer extended hours?

Funny what we think to be attention grabbing and slick sales techniques—those things which we would employ as all important “hooks”—that which is loud, garish, flashy, tech savvy techniques, with millions spent in order to garner customers and sales. Our all engrossing sensory overload techniques. All this as we as a people are growing ever jaded with and by our savvy consumerism. It now takes something almost monumental to get our attention, our money, our business. As we continue searching and seeking something for nothing.

And yet God, the Almighty, Jehovah, Emmanuel, Yahweh, The Alpha and the Omega, the Omnipotent, the Creator, the Adonai. . . does not employ the tactics of mere mortals. He is not concerned with “out doing” the competition. He is not concerned without out selling the competitors.
The power is in the silence not in the noise.

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(1 Kings 19: 11-13)

A voice.
A whisper.
A simple spoken voice.
No screaming.
No shouting.
No yelling.
A voice.

We wonder where He is?
Why doesn’t He speak?
Why is He so silent?

The real question. . .
Is He?