20 February 2010

Public speeches

The Hon David Clarke
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Pictured is David Clarke, the Liberal Party powerbroker, known as the leader of the ''religious right." He survived a challenge for his upper house seat last night led by his former lieutenant Alex Hawke, which will ensure he can serve in the Legislative Council for another eight years.

Mr Clarke fought off David Elliott, the chief executive of the Civil Contractors Federation, for pre-selection for the seat known in the party as north-west province. He won the pre-selection by 50 votes to 36, with four votes going to a third candidate, Brett Murray.

Also on Friday, Tiger Woods made a public appearance, although the press corps didn't cover it. Ernie Els called Tiger Woods 'selfish' for making his first public appearance in the middle of the Accenture Match Play Championship. The word doesn't begin to describe how furious Els is with Woods.

The South African said: ''It's selfish. You can write that. I feel sorry for the sponsor. Mondays are a good day to make statements, not Friday. This takes a lot away from the golf tournament.'' Especially since Accenture used to be one of Tiger's sponsors and then they axed him after his multi-indiscretions. Oh, let's call it what it was. Adulteries. Sex scandal extra-ordinaire. Tiger doesn't do anything minimally.

Also on Friday the pope made a speech about Aussie Mary McKillop and almost guarantees this Australian educator and nun to gain sainthood. Something Tiger would love to achieve. The pope made the announcement in Rome that Ms MacKillop will be canonised in a ceremony at the Vatican on 17 October. Pope Benedict XVI announced the date at a meeting of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

It is thought she will be known as St Mary of the Cross.

Making a public speech is intimidating to some high school kids; it's the joy of the egocentric in the same class. So a speech can ring true, it can afford an occasion for crocodile tears or can be a call to the masses to mutiny or to massacre or to mend the hurts of the ages. Speechmaking is an art and a pleasure if it's done well.

I enjoy a good yarn. I enjoy a good talk. Think Paul Harvey. Think Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion. (photo on left)Think Jesus.

Yup, that's right Jesus, the Jewish messiah, foretold by Jewish prophets in the Jewish scriptures. It's all there. Nobody labelled him Saint. So few actually gave him their ears, Julius.

But to him who has ears, what Jesus (or as we often call him, Y'shua) said is life and death. It's not only informing about today; it's compelling and demanding for the future. Y'shua is not from the religious right. He is the right. He's not describing life in heaven; he is the Life.

Listen, give yourself a chance to hear, read the Newer Testament. Then the forgiveness sought will be found, without fake tears, but with a pure heart. God will do that for you. Privately, just for you. How awesome is that!

12 February 2010

Second chances

"Road Trip 2010"
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
My son's commercial, airing now on Channel 10 in Australia, is advertising a segment of "So you think you can dance." For those who don't know about the show, here's how it works. Dancers try out in many cities around the country, in October and November. The selectors and judges choose 100 people from all the cities to come to Sydney for the "Top 100" shows. That's the show which is aired each January on the television.

Then after the first three shows are aired, the "Top 20" are selected (by de-selecting the other 80). Then each week, 2 more dancers lose and the show culls the Top 10, and finally Australia's Best Dancer. That's how the season works.

So what Nate is talking about on this video clip is that "Top 20" dancers who lose one week will join him on this road trip, and teach others on the road. So although they lose, they get a second chance (and maybe more) to be on the show.

That's really a great idea.

But wait, there's more. The folks on the road, who will meet Nate, his crew, and the others are also being given a second chance. You see, some of them might have been those who tried out and auditioned in Perth or Adelaide. And then got knocked out of the tryouts. But now they are being given a 2nd chance.

I like that.

I like second chances.

God is the God of the second chance. And third chance. And more chances than you ever deserved. He's a generous, merciful and loving Creator. Consider Jonah the prophet. He was called from Joppa (Israel) to preach the message from God to the people of Nineveh. He chose to go elsewhere and as a result got in trouble, swallowed by a whale, well, you might have heard that story.

That said, you should know that the story doesn't end there. The prophet from inside the whale began to think/ rethink the go/ don't go thing and changed his mind. God had given Jonah another chance, and he was able to turn around, make the message clear and saw the Ninevites come to faith, including the king of Nineveh, who arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes.

The Bible says, "The LORD sustains all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down." (Psa. 145.14) So when you fall, it's still not over. There's more chance. Come on, reach up, God raises up those who are down and (not) out!

This isn't only about dancing. It's not only about television. It's about your life. Maybe you had everything going and then it fell apart. Maybe you had a great relationship, now it's gone. But wait, there's more. It's not (necessarily) over.

Look up, God's hand is reaching out to you. Trust Him. Reading this blog could be the beginning of the next chance for you.

If you want more on this, from a man we respect at Jews for Jesus Australia, see Robinson

10 February 2010

Creativity: Imago Dei

Why do we draw? Why do we listen to good music? What other animal draws for no (other) purpose? A spider spins her web, although beautiful and fantastic in design, to acquire food; a salamander weaves its way along a beach, leaving a pattern of beauty, but not for an arts degree. The beaver builds an impressive dam, but mostly for survival.

Mankind alone uses creativity for beauty's sake.

CS Lewis wrote much about creativity. For instance, "Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." Wonderful understanding of application and style.

More to the point of being unoriginal, Lewis wrote "Creation as applied to human authorship seems to me to be an entirely misleading term. We rearrange elements God has provided.... we are recombining elements made by God and already containing his meanings." There, in a few short phrases is imago dei. It's God who is the Creator. It's God who pours his life into us, including his image, and including this entirely human characteristic of creativity.

Some people say I'm a creative person. And I think the closer I get to Jesus, the more creative I feel. I feel closer to the Creator and thus his image and his creativity is awash in me. Right now, I'm thinking about my time this morning, about my reading of the Bible, the singing I was able to do with some sacred songs from Hillsong, and pondering the Creator. As a result I feel uninhibited and free. I feel like dreaming new thoughts and writing this blog and calling others to join me in creativity.

Priscilla drew this crucifix on the streets of Melbourne during one of our outreaches there. She used her artistic talent a la Chagall to communicate "This Jew died for you." Some write songs; some draw chalk art. My first cousin Barbara Mendelsohn married a man named Fred who for decades has gone to the streets with sketch art, to help people around to understand the message of the Gospel of Jesus.

Listen, perhaps you don't believe in God. Fair enough. You have to ask yourself why you enjoy music. From where does that pleasure come? Do you like art or posters or television shows or movies or theatre? What's the point of that? Friend, you have discovered imago dei. And if there's an image of God, it doesn't prove, but it certainly points to a God who has such an image. I wish that for you soon.

08 February 2010

Time on the clock

Time management is crucial in sports and at universities these days. Crowds clamber for coaches to call time out or to stall and use up all the clock if their side is ahead by a goal or two. As I blog today I'm watching the US gridiron contest, the grand final, The Superbowl between the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. It's taking place at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida next to Ft Lauderdale.

As the first half ended the crowd was not happy with the decision of the coach for New Orleans, but he was vindicated as their kicker helped trim the Colts' lead to 10-6 at the interval.

Many students will be back in the classroom tomorrow, and I have some advise on time management.

1) Blocks of study time and breaks
Try to use blocks of study time every week. Blocks ideally are around an hour, but maybe you become restless after only 15 minutes? Some difficult material may require more frequent breaks. Shorten your study blocks if necessary—but don’t forget to return to the task at hand! What you do during your break should give you an opportunity to have a snack, relax, or otherwise refresh or re-energize yourself. For example, place blocks of time when you are most productive: are you a morning person or a night owl?

2)Dedicated study space
Determine a place free from distraction (no mobiles or SMS) where you can maximize your concentration and be free of the distractions that friends or hobbies can bring! You should also have a back-up space that you can escape to, like the library, a study center, your folks' house, even a Gloria Jeans where you can be anonymous.

3) Weekly reviews
Each week, like on Sunday afternoon, review your assignments, your notes, your calendar. Be sure that as deadlines and exams approach, your weekly routine must adapt to them!

4) Prioritize your assignments and work
When studying, get in the habit of beginning with the most difficult subject or task. Always do the hard thing first! You’ll be fresh, and have more energy to take them on when you are at your best. For more difficult courses of study, try to be flexible: for example, build in “reaction time” when you can get feedback on assignments before they are due.
Blessed are the flexible; they do not break.

5) Get something done.
The Chinese adage of the longest journey starting with a single step has a couple of meanings: First, you launch the project! Second, by starting, you may realize that there are some things you have not planned for in your process. Details of an assignment are not always evident until you begin the assignment. Another adage is that “perfection is the enemy of good”, especially when it prevents you from starting! Given that you build in review, roughly draft your idea and get started! You will have time to edit and develop later.

6) Postpone unnecessary activities until the work is done!

Don't be distracted. Postpone tasks or routines that can be put off until your school work is finished! This can be the most difficult challenge of time management. As learners we always meet unexpected opportunities that look appealing, then result in poor performance on a test, on a paper, or in preparation for a task. Distracting activities will be more enjoyable later without the pressure of the test, assignment, etc. hanging over your head. Think in terms of pride of accomplishment. Instead of saying “no” learn to say “not now”.

7) Identify resources to help you
Maybe you need to find people or books or websites. Are there tutors? An “expert friend”? Have you tried google to get better explanations? Are there specialists in the library that can point you to resources? What about professionals and professional organizations. Using outside resources can save you time and energy, and solve problems.

8) Use your free time wisely
Take blocks of time for study and do the same with exercise. Take 3 hours for the gym and don't feel guilty. Play an extra set of tennis. But you will still have extra time. And it won't be a block. So what do you do? Think of times when you can study "bits" as when walking, riding the bus, etc. Perhaps you’ve got music to listen to for your course in music appreciation, or drills in language learning? If you are walking or biking to school, when best to listen? Perhaps you are in a line waiting? Perfect for routine tasks like flash cards, or if you can concentrate, to read or review a chapter. The bottom line is to put your time to good use.

9) Review notes and readings just before class
This may prompt a question or two about something you don’t quite understand, to ask about in class, or after. It also demonstrates to your teacher that you are interested and have prepared. I'm not talking about cramming, that is putting things into your head that never were there during the term.

10) Review lecture notes just after class
Then review lecture material immediately after class. The first 24 hours are critical. Forgetting is greatest within 24 hours without review! Use another method of review, like re-writing your notes, or studying with another person. Using another sense, like hearing will also help.

Hope this all helps. It certainly is helping the Saints.

02 February 2010

Big Brother

George Orwell was such a prophet. Wikipedia reminds us, "Big Brother is a fictional character in George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the enigmatic dictator of Oceania, a totalitarian state taken to its utmost logical consequence - where the ruling elite ('the Party') wield total power for its own sake over the inhabitants.

In the society that Orwell describes, everyone is under complete surveillance by the authorities, mainly by telescreens. The people are constantly reminded of this by the phrase "Big Brother is watching you", which is the core "truth" of the propaganda system in this state."

So today I found this regime in my television. It was so weird. I had a technical question for the Foxtel people. So I rang the 1.300 number. All good. Told the mechanical voice on the other end that my problem was not related to ordering Vancouver Olympics. Sorry Buble. Sorry JZ. I had other issues. Then the "your call is important to us" voice, mechanical Tom, said, "please state in a few words what your issue is." OK, so that done, now we can deal with recording remote via the computer. Um, that's not the department I went to. Instead I was sent to 'technical' problems. I guess that will work.

First 'technical' tells me that there are troubles in several suburbs, none of which is mine. OK, I think, I'm getting closer to a real help person.

"If you are in one of those suburbs, you may hang up now." Wow, that's a little unhelpful, Foxy.

So now ...and here's Big Brother at work... once I got to 'technical' and I was in a suitable suburb, the computer told me that my Foxtel box would be rebooted, and that should fix the technical problem. If it didn't, then I could ring back and get to a customer service person. Before I could say, "B-B" (see ** below), my television went dark; my Foxtel was in fact off.


From wherever this 'conversation' took place, maybe Philippines, maybe India, maybe in Sydney... someone or more likely, some computer knocked my television to 'off.'

Buckle your seat belt, watch over your shoulder, the prophet Orwell was right. I am being forced to type this....no, it's not right, there is no Big....no Big B....STOP, you cannot type this... We are watching...[off]

** "a deep, slow, rhythmic chant of 'B-B! .... B-B! .... B-B!'—over and over again, very slowly, with a long pause between the first 'B' and the second—a heavy murmurous sound, somehow curiously savage, in the background of which one seemed to hear the stamps of naked feet and the throbbing of tom-toms. For perhaps as much as thirty seconds they kept it up. It was a refrain that was often heard in moments of overwhelming emotion. Partly it was a sort of hymn to the wisdom and majesty of Big Brother, but still more it was an act of self-hypnosis, a deliberate drowning of consciousness by means of rhythmic noise" (Orwell, 1984)