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

the mayor is in…

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only
solution is love and that love comes with community.”

Dorothy Day

The above image is a photo of Woobooville.

Woobooville is a relatively small community.
A new gated community to be more exact.
It currently houses four constituents…Bobo Buzzard, Polly Possum, Lambie Pie Lamb
and Jeffery Girrafe.

There are 3 different Rec centers, with one being mobile when so desired.
The Rec centers are open whenever needed.

The road was paved (quilted) by Natalie and hasn’t a single pothole.
There is 24 hr security yet there is no crime to ever speak of.
There is even a single storage unit, open free of charge.

Plus the community actually has its own mayor…
and the mayor just happens to be in her office this weekend.

Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

the innocence of a child

All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
and great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

“For children are innocent and love justice,
while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”

G.K. Chesterton


(Autumn with her new sheep that Joy brought her)

I marvel daily at the tiny small gains of growth and knowledge.
I look into those glistening blue eyes highlighted by feathery little lashes…
small tiny hands reaching with the herky-jerky battle of involuntary versus control.
The longing to touch, to hold, to move, to sit upright…

How do you look at a child and question the existence of God?
How do you look at a child and consider an abortion?
How do you look at a child and selfishly put them in harm’s way?

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.
But the disciples rebuked them.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

Matthew 19:13-15

the extraordinary venture

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


(a protion of the paitning The Sacrificial Lamb / Josefa de Obidos / 1670-1684)

There is so much I wish to share after having watched the 2nd Sunday in Epiphany
posting by Bishop Gavin Ashenden, but time will not permit me to do so.

I am however including the video clip of his homily at the end of this post, which is really so lovely, so welcomed and so needed.
For as the good Bishop reminds us—our pursuit of God, or perhaps that should be God’s pursuit of us, is that of an extraordinary venture…

I will, however, touch on just a portion of what I’ve taken away, as I will do so
over the next day or so, as his words have touched me deeply.

The good Bishop, at one point during his homily, recalls having, not long ago, having attended a reunion of his schoolmates. He had actually attended a Christian School and remembers quite vividly attending the chapel services and how often as a boy,
listening to the words of the Gospel, or a reading from the Epistle,
or even words of the hymns…just how deeply touched and moved he was—
his words— “I felt my spine tingling.”

So at this reunion of sorts, he knew that some of his now grown classmates were Christians and some were not. He asked if they remember the hairs on the back of their necks
standing on edge or getting goosebumps or feeling a tingling in their spine during parts
of the service…

And their response was one of incredulous bewilderment.
They told him that chapel was merely a time to be endured,
nothing earth-shattering as he seemed to recall…
and I, in turn, was keenly moved by this tale because I too have felt that tingling.

Bishop Ashenden went on to conclude that he felt perhaps that God’s hand was on his life
heavier and more direct, for whatever reason than at that same time of that of his mates.

And I too have felt that heaviness, and it was also at a much younger age.

He goes on to relate a tale of the notion of sin and the fact that there is a Christian perception of sin and that there is what is considered a secular perception sin…
Christian sin, to the Christian, is more evident as it is a brokenness that separates
the sinner from God.

A secular sin is more or less a cultural perception of correctness—
and if you are on the wrong side of that correctness, then that is the true sin…
An example would be a person who opposes same-sex unions/marriage.
Secular society condemns anyone who is against same-sex unions by not viewing such
unions as perfectly acceptable.
That’s all there is to it.
One has broken the cultural code of what is right, and therefore there is no help for you…for you have sinned. You are castigated.

The Christian perception of sin is different in that there is one key component…
That component is forgiveness.

In a politically correct society, there is no room for forgiveness.

And whereas “we are fractured from God by our appetites, by our flaws, by our behavior,”
we are in desperate need of forgiveness.
And that forgiveness comes in the form of Jesus
on the cross.

The homily was opened with the reading from the book of Revelation 5:1-10

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals;
and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice,
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?”
And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open
the scroll or to look into it.
And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the
scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me,
“Do not weep.
See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered,
so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the
elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered,
having seven horns and seven eyes,
which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll,
the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb,
each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense,
which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints
from every tribe and language and people and nation;
you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,
and they will reign on earth.”

Bishop Ashenden makes note of John and of his weeping over the fact that there is no one
who can or is worthy to open as well as read the scrolls.
He is then told that first, it is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David
who is also, in turn, is the Lamb…and it is this sacrificial yet triumphant
Lamb who will open and read the scrolls.

It is the Lamb who is key to the forgiveness and cleansing we are so desperately
in need of as our fracturing from God is now rejoined and made whole…

More tomorrow….

Meat and potatoes

One gets to the heart of the matter by a series of experiences in
the same pattern, but in different colors.

Robert Graves


(the red snapper at Bud and Alley’s Seaside Beach, Fl / Julie Cook)

Ok, I admit….this is a picture of a fish with potatoes and not a steak.
as in “meat and potatoes”

I did have a lovely picture of a prime rib roast which I had cooked a while back,
but the fish seemed a bit less red and well, meaty…as I know there are those
out there who just really are opposed to “red” meat….despite my knowing there are
those who will grouse over the whole well, whole fish…meaning head and eyes….
but we digress….

I’ve stated before, I’ve always been a meat and potatoes sort of girl.
Be that meat…fowl, pig, lamb, fish or cow…..

Yet today’s post is not about food…meat or starch…
but is a post that we might just call more of a hearty dose of the
Word of God….being sustenance for the soul verses the food for the stomach.
As in getting down to the heart of the matter….

And now that the dust has somewhat settled…as the snows are now melting…
life is settling back into its normal madness of Christmas….
sans any of the distracting, as well as debilitating, white stuff.

Power is now restored.
Limbs are now cut up and stacked.
Cars have been moved to where they belong….
As schools resume to normal schedules today.

So in the madness since late last week, when the snows did begin to fall,
I was literally pulled away from much of my reading and study as my duties
were needed immediately elsewhere—
And I was particularly pulled away from my reading and focusing on the teachings
of those 3 favorite clerics of mine…

And what a delightful hodge podge of spirituality they are—

A renegade Anglican priest, a reformed Presbyterian minister and a Catholic monk…

And may it be known that whereas each one of these men may seem,
from all outward appearances to be vastly different,
when all the pretense of what the world perceives of them is
peeled away, they along with their messages, are but one in the same.

And I for one delight in that.

In my distraction with the snow and writing about such…there has been so much
that has actually taken place that needs not only my attention but yours as well….

Jerusalem is being recognized by the US, at long last, as the capital of Israel…
much to the chagrin of most of the world as well as by many actually in the US
itself.

The Pope, much like our US President, has boldly and perhaps blindly, ventured
to where he may not should have trod, by declaring that the Lords’ Prayer
needs an overhaul….see the perspiration beads forming at my brow….

Sexual harassment continues to prevail in our headlines as it appears to have crept
into the fold….

And my friend who I made mention of the other day…
the one whose family business my family had frequented for the past 25 years or so,
lost her earthly battle early Friday morning.
During the last time we had a chance to chat, which was just a couple of weeks ago,
I noticed that my friend was rather sad and weepy.
I asked what was troubling her….and this 78 year old friend looks me in the eye
and tells me “I miss my momma”—- as I look back at her,
telling her how I understand because I miss mine as well—of which she knew….
So I am uplifted in knowing that both her son and daughter were by her side
when she gave up the earthly ghost and headed on home to be with her mom…

All of this, along with all the other tit for tat that has been happening in what seems
to be my snow encrusted writing absence, will each be addressed in due time…..

But first I wanted to return our focus to Advent.

Because isn’t that what our focus should currently be about?
Advent.
As in The Coming….

I spent some time this morning listening to the 2nd Sunday in Advent’s homily
offered by Bishop Gavin Ashenden…I was a day late and a dollar short,
but none the less, blessed.
12 delightful minutes of good meat and potatoes for the soul.

The good bishop reminds us that Advent is a time for making space in our hearts,
more space for Jesus.

He tells us that this is the time that we are to be about repentance…
in order to make sacred space available.

Bishop Ashenden focused on the reading of the day which was taken from the Gospel of
St Mark (Mark 1:1-8) in which there is a good description of John the Baptizer…
a man wearing simple garments and who is sustained by eating wild honey and locust.

The good Bishop admits to having always been a bit perplexed as the why
the locust eating would be so important as to be included in the text….
but a Greek friend noted that the true translation in Greek, as only Greeks would understand it to be, was not that of an insect but rather actually a type of flower—
of which seemed to make much more sense.

So we get the complete picture of John…that he was a simple man,
living off and being sustained by the land.
Not the crazy loner off in the desert howling by the moon at night as he
has often been portrayed—perhaps more mad than wise.

And so as we note–John was very simple—
in turn bound by no worldly trappings what so ever ….

John both proclaimed as well as accused those of his day of having
lives way too full—
and that the time had come to make the choice…

The choice being between holding on to that which gets in the way of God or
to choose to move out and get rid of that which gets in the way…
getting rid of that which is separating ourselves from God and God alone.

Very much what we see society and our culture forcing upon us today—
Especially and particularly this time of year!

Our lives, particularly during Christmas, are so chocked full that we are
practically to our breaking point.

We are so full and overwhelmed with all that must be done to
make the “holidays” just so special, magical and wonderful…
on top of already busy lives with school and work….
that we are actually crowding out Jesus.

Crowding Him out from the very time He is to actually be at the center of
our focus.

Bishop Ashenden notes that John’s message of Metanoia, or that of our total change
and or transformation, is so important because it calls us to a new way of examining
things….

Yet at the same time the good Bishop admonishes us that…dare we say,
there is a spirit of evil actually at work, at this very moment, particularly now…
during this time of year that we are being called…called by God.
It is all so totally opposite of the call of the Holy Spirit.

For there is a force working to counter that call…
countering with the distractions and demands we actually throw upon ourselves
particularly at this time of year.

Shopping, church pageants, visits to Santa, picture taking, card writing and sending,
choir practice, school plays, sporting events, making costumes, wrapping gifts,
sorting, cooking, parties, cleaning, traveling…
all of this on top of the already endless demands of both work and school—
All of this becomes the priority while the true essence of Christ is pushed further
aside.

We fight to pretend and convince ourselves otherwise—
we rationalize that we are doing what we are doing because IT IS Christmas…
yet none of it has one single thing to do truly with Christmas—
or Christ Mass…

None of this is to be about lifestyle and clutter but about having the presence
of God at our forefront…as Bishop Ashenden pointedly asks…
“how much time then do you allot for prayer, the reading of scripture,
and loving the Lord?”…especially now during this chaotic time?

I found that I had to really look at what he was saying…
I had to look closely at what gets pushed aside…looking at what is then
actually pushing its way into being the priority….a false priortiy.
The priorities that society makes of us during this season…

Our culture clamors that we are to be all inclusive…and non discriminatory—
but should we not be exclusive and discriminatory over that which is demanding
to be the forefront of our focus—-all of which is not the true essence of Christ
nor of Christ Himself….

lambs to rams

“There’s nothing so fearsome as the revolt of a sheep,”
said de Marsay.”

Honoré de Balzac


(Sheep along the cliffs of Slieve League, Co. Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I have a very wise blogging friend.

Well actually, I have many wise blogging friends….
all of whom I have been fortunate enough to sit at their knees while learning
a thing or two.
For you see, I don’t think we’re ever too old or too knowledgable to learn.

One friend in particular is what I like to call a ‘kindly sort of warrior.’

Not warrior like some sort of Viking princess or radical progressive feminist—
quite the contrary.

She is older than I am, so she’s been around the block a couple of more times
than I have.
She also knows her stuff when it comes to both life and faith.

When you look at her, you get that sweet dear old aunt or grandmother vibe….
the one who always has the plate of fresh cookies waiting on you when you come visit.

Her point of origin however denotes a southern mid-west no nonsense sort of lens.
She therefore shoots straight from the hip and makes no apologies….

The other day after one of the most recent current event brouhahas, which was running
amuck across the nation, blew up in the media…this kindly wise soul actually bristled some feathers.
And naturally…. I liked it…. and told her as much.

Her response—“lamb to ram.”

Meaning that sometimes the sweet little lambs of the fold have been known to step up,
speak up, speak out—all the while they let it be known that whereas the lambs may
be known for their peaceful love…they are certainly no pushovers.
They will defend and even fight for what is right when it is necessary….
as in a Godly sort of righteousness.

Think Joan of Arc—as in a holy warrior.

And that’s the thing.

I often think those of the world view much of fold of Christianity as being pushovers, mambie pambie do gooders who are naive and often times ignorant souls who, bless their hearts, believe in make-believe and fairy tales.

As in who can or would take them seriously…??!!

They are to be the doormats of progressive liberals, the media, atheists and yes,
even radical Muslims…
As in annihilate the Christians because they are the annoying little flies in the room,
the troublemakers caught in a tragic time warp whose past is all but checkered.

But in actuality what I see is that Christianity represents the conscience
of man.
For Christians know all about sin, its destructiveness, its lies,
its corruption, its snare and its trap.

Christians are those who can actually see and know Truth, while living all around them
is a raging lie.
And no one likes being told their living or lives boil down to that of a lie…
hence part and parcel for all that animosity.

Yet Christians are no more exempt from sin, temptation, egregious acts than the next
person…it’s just that Christians recognize the source of the misery… they call it
by name, admit the errors… be they small or egregiously grand, seek the forgiveness
and the righteous salvation freely offered by the Resurrected Son and then in turn
share that blessed knowledge.

It’s that whole go and sin no more notion.

And yet, often times, they, we, do sin again.

And that’s when the naysayers jump.

But here’s another thing.

Christians continually seek the saving Grace of Jesus Christ…
as they are the penultimate sacrificial lambs to the ultimate Lamb…
that having been Jesus Christ.

We seek Grace, Mercy, Forgiveness…and the rub…?
The fold is then instructed to go out and do the same to and for those still
caught in the lies of the cultural wars.

Yet the culture war gods would prefer the Christians keep silent or better yet,
be silenced.

Because the collective fold consciously reminds these culture gods as to why
their push for the latest and greatest dehumanizing choices are wrong.

Why homosexuality is wrong.
Why gay marriage is wrong.
Why radical feminism is wrong.
Why abortion is wrong.
Why addiction is wrong.
Why sin is wrong.
Why secularism is wrong.
Why humanism is wrong.

They speak to what is dangerous and to why that is so.

Progressivism, liberalism, communism, secularism, totalitarianism, hedonism, socialism
materialism, idolatry, sorcery….as each one falls under the rule of the Law…..
as the lambs of the fold remind the nations as to why there are the laws of Commandments and to the consequence of not following God’s word…

So yeah, sometimes the lamb has to be a ram…


(a sheep somewhere along the road in Co Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise
its authority for forty-two months.
It opened its mouth to blaspheme God,
and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.
And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—-
all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life,
the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

Revelation 13:5-8

Atonement

God may not accept a person to forgive him his sins, without an atonement,
else he must give free license to sin both in angels and men,
and then sin were no sin, and our God were no God.

John Wycliffe

agnus_dei_the_lamb_of_god_by_francisco_de_zurbaran_c-_1635-1640_-_san_diego_museum_of_art_-_dsc06627
(Agnus Dei by Francisco de Zurbaran 1635 / Sand Deigo Museum of Art)

“To be a Christian is…to be a man”;
But what makes a Christian a Christian and a man a man is
“participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.”

In Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Cosmos, all created things have their origin, goal, and essence;
through the command of the cosmic Christ all creation is set free to fulfill its own laws:
that is, to be genuinely worldly.

However, it is the cross of atonement that sets men free for life before God
in the midst of the godless world:
[The cross] sets men free for life in genuine worldliness.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Reality and Resistance
Larry L. Rasmussen

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,

Revelation 5:9

RESPECT

Whoa, babe (just a little bit)
A little respect (just a little bit)
I get tired (just a little bit)
Keep on tryin’ (just a little bit)
You’re runnin’ out of foolin’ (just a little bit)
And I ain’t lyin’ (just a little bit)
(re, re, re, re) ‘spect

RESPECT Lyrics, Aretha Franklin

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”
Leo Tolstoy

DSCN1771
(a sheep enjoying the sun, Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Respect.
It seems as if it was Aretha Franklin, the grand dame of RB music, who almost single handedly made the word respect famous as she belted out her famous 1967 chart topping hit…leaving the indelible mark of not only how to spell the word, but how to shout it out with great soulful authority…
“All I’m askin’ is for a little respect…”

To give and to get respect seems to be an age old issue of man’s…
Throughout our history on this planet, we’ve painstakingly and even joyously divided ourselves into the the hierarchy of social casts and levels. We’ve attempted to afford but only a few the esteemed pleasure of immeasurable respect, leaving countless others left out and run over in its wake….
Creating the haves and the have nots…and somehow mistakenly bestowing the have nots with little to no level of respect.

Both the late Pope John Paul II and the Blessed Mother Teresa each worked tirelessly to bring the concept of respect as well as the respect for life for each and every individual to the forefront of their earthly ministries as each one aptly noted that we currently live in a “culture of death”…

“Today this proclamation is especially pressing because of the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenceless. In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale.”

“God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he has created all things that they might exist … God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it” (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24).
Pope John Paul II
Evangelium Vitae

Nakedness is not only for a piece of clothing; nakedness is lack of human dignity, and also that beautiful virtue of purity, and lack of that respect for each other.
Mother Teresa

We have placed prestige and wealth, occupations and education, materialism and gain on the side of the respected.
Allowing intellect, knowledge, popularity and talents to stand as the signal markers,
marking the where and the with whom the markers of respect should be placed.

And yet all we have to do these days is listen to any sort of altercation and one will immediately hear the defensive cry of “I had to hit him, shoot him, kill him, beat him, curse him….because he disrespected me”

“because he disrespected me”…..

This coming from a society that uses the F word as casually as they use the word “hello”
This coming from a society that tolerates music boasting the using of women as mere objects of sexual satisfaction then discarding them as a waded up piece of trash.
This coming from a society that will casually take a life in an act of rage over the disagreement as to who got to a parking space first.
This coming from a society that is rife with hate groups, mistrust and a glaring and abject wealth of, dare I say it, blatant disrespect…

Disrespect for authority, for life, for color, for worship, for age, for having, for not having…
A society and culture that screams tolerance, yet is anything but and is full to the brim with a selfish disrespect.

It has become almost laughable that our society bends over backwards to be so uttlerly neutered on the issue of political correctness yet won’t tolerate, let alone respect, a single individual who dares to hold a counter opinion.

And yet this all runs counter to God’s command and His exhortation of how we are to live.
We have even disrespected the Omnipotent God of all creation
We’ve removed His sovereignty, His place above us..
We’ve removed the capital G replacing it with a small little g, tossing Him into a box along with all our other little demigods.

We’ve lost our respect for one another, for ourselves and for our Creator—
lowering our place on this earth to perhaps that which is lower than most animals.

And yet we continue to tolerate the disrespect….all because we don’t want to “call anyone out” preferring to appear overtly full of respect by saying and doing absolutely nothing…because we’ve basically neutered ourselves.

How odd then is it that God, the Creator of all that was, all that is and all that will be would come to us in the form of something so small, helpless and unassuming as a mere baby and even as one who is depicted as a defenseless and hapless lamb…
The Greater taking the form of the lesser…
the very least of the less…

A baby and a lamb…each being something we more or less disregard, something that isn’t afforded much thought, much respect…things not looked at twice as far as power, might and bravado are concerned yet still He, the Great I AM, comes to us in these less than states…
Maybe, just maybe there’s a lesson or two buried in there someplace about respecting and looking toward and finding the greater in the lesser turning our whole thought process about respecting and admiring upside down….

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

A son honors his father, and servants their master. If then I am a father, where is the honor due me? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord of hosts to you…
Malachi 1:6

Hunter or hunted

“He was a killer, a thing that preyed, living on the things that lived, unaided, alone, by virtue of his own strength and prowess, surviving triumphantly in a hostile environment where only the strong survive.”
― Jack London

“Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey.”
Lord Byron

DSCN2213
(a coyote crouches in search of his breakfast / Cades Cove, Tn / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

DSCN2207
(wild mountain turkey / Cades Cove, Tn / The Great Smokey Mountains National Park / Julie Cook / 2015)

There is one who waits hidden…
Crouching in the high grass…
Searching
Seeking
Watching
Waiting…
All with the greatest of patience

He waits for those who will hesitate, waffle, waiver, slip and fall.
Waiting patiently to devour those he can snap up when they least expect his attack.

Yet Hope has left an escape…
For there is one who has offered to take on the role of decoy and prey.
He affords us the opportunity of time and escape.. the ability to thwart the imminent attack.

Sadly there are those who are not interested in this selfless offer,
preferring to go it alone…on their own way… or worse…
choosing to simply ignore and disregard the inevitable attack.

Stealth is not on our side.
Time is questionable.
Escape improbable..

Unless, there is a sacrificial lamb…
And thankfully…
there is…

DSCN1764
(a sheep rests on the shoreline cliffs of Gleann Cholm Cille, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks.
Jeremiah 16:16

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)

DSC00301
(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.

eastofsuez_jude
(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.

article-2685923-1F81DA1E00000578-197_634x344

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