15 March 2012

Fullness (Part IV)

This painting by Rembrandt which hangs in St Petersburg has been the focus of many a commentary and deservedly so. Henri Nouwen wrote a short book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, based on his contemplation of Rembrandt's painting. He wrote three sections in the book, as each main character describes the situation. The father, the elder son and the younger son. Great reading.

Lately I've been pondering fullness, as you would know if you are following this blog, and which I hope you will know, as you read this one.... and some others. And fullness is not about reaching a particular level on a flask or glass. It's about overflow, and running over. The image I use is about the love of God and most clearly demonstrated in this story of the Prodigal Son.

Actually, the word 'prodigal' means effusive and lavish. It's more often particularized into wasteful spending, as Dictionary.com says, "Adjective: Spending money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant.
Noun: A person who spends money in a recklessly extravagant way."

Let's go back to context. The Bible records this story in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15. Y'shua uses three stories to amplify what He wanted us to learn. One is the story of the son. But here's how it begins, "Luke Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
So He told them this parable, saying, "What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" (verses 1-4)

Y'shua tells about the 99 sheep, about a woman who loses a coin, and about a father who loses a son. In each case, there is finding of the lost and great rejoicing. Obviously the point of the three stories is to highlight the welcome Y'shua wants to give to the sinners and tax collectors who are coming to him. OK, I get it.

So, why am I bringing this up in my series on fullness? Because although the general use of the term 'prodigal' is about extravagant spending in waste, I'm thinking that the father in the story is extremely prodigal. He is effusive in spending on behalf of his wayward son. And Nouwen brings that up. And so does Timothy Keller in his review of this.

On his return to the family house, after wishing his father dead, the younger son hears this proclamation, “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate." (Luke 15.22-24)

Prodigal, effusive spending. Outrageous love. Great and glorious extravagance. That's what I'm talking about. Overandabove is in the nature of the father in the story.

And it's the key in understanding the grace of God, the undeserved, unrelenting giving of God to all people. No one earns it. No one can claim entitlement to it. God gives because it is his nature to give.

And he wants to give to you. Will you receive His love and fulness today? Start with a quick prayer and ask Him for help.

Fullness (Part III)

Overflow by -yury-
Overflow, a photo by -yury- on Flickr.
Lately I've been pondering the fullness of God and what He wants in our lives. Often when people think full, they think of their petrol tank. And once the tank is full, the spicket shuts off and no more liquid can enter. If you force the pump to continue, the spillage will be useless to the car's operation and in fact, bad for the environment and your clothing.

You might know the Bible text, "my cup runneth over." (Psalm 23) That's really in my thinking today. This is why so many Jewish kiddush (wine) cups come with a saucer. You can fill the cup only so full, and after that, spillage happens. Most people don't want such spillage, certainly of red wine, onto their nice tables and tablecloths. Hence the saucer.

This photo by the Aussie Yury Prokopenko not far from me in Mona Vale on the Northern Beaches of Sydney says what I'm thinking in another way. Fullness is not really about a 'just enough' amount. Fullness is about overflow. It's about the effusive nature of the One who wants us to be full of the measure of God.

Listen to these words from the great rabbi, the Apostle Paul, to the believers in Colossae. "For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Chapter 1, verses 9-14)

Fullness in so many ways. Filled with the knowledge of God's will (that's being filled with purpose), in all wisdom and spiritual understanding (that's discernment). .. Fully pleasing Him (bringing God satisfaction, really, me? Yup!). Being fruitful, that's full of fruit. Increasing (wait, I thought we were full)?

Aha, that's the point. If you live a Torah-summed, Torah-observant, rule-compliance type life,you will look to meet the rules. You will try to make the word 'fullness' into a fill the cup to a specific quantity. But God is effusive. Lavish. Overflowing.

Many who are rule-keepers, and I hear from them all the time, want to know when I celebrate Sabbath. How I observe the Law. What did God mean when He said...

Listen, there is nothing wrong with such consideration. What is wrong is when we think our satisfaction of a rule is the same as fullness.

In the next Blog I will consider the story in Luke 15 of the Prodigal Son.

For now, ponder how God wants you to live in His overwhelming flood. In His mercy and not in His scorekeeping. He loves you and wants you to know Him personally. There's nothing like that anywhere, in the Northern Beaches or in your world.

14 March 2012

God's fullness (Fullness Part II)

What do you think of when I use the term 'fullness?' Maybe I should have asked and then put up no photo, but I start most of my blogs with a photo and then ponder what it's saying. Today and this whole week I've been thinking about fullness, about God's fullness, about being full of the Spirit, about being filled with joy and love and awe and wonder. Other biblical terms include abundance, fill, full, fully satisfied, fulness, satisfied.

Each of those terms brings to mind certain principles and certain realities, even feelings from my past. I love the feeling of awe and wonder when I fly and climb that moment just above the clouds. I feel full when I sing certain songs of worship which draw me closer to God. I love a great meal and sometimes add dessert, when I should have stopped, and feel full upon full, a bit uncomfortable to be sure, but fullness, yes, that will describe it.

Beauty can show me fullness. Music can lift me in fullness to the heights. Architecture can draw me up and up in a cathedral so that I think thoughts that are higher than what I was daydreaming about a moment earlier.

 The Bible says in the Psalms "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. That's the fullness of God, and it's found in the presence of God. (Psalm 16.11)

Paul wrote to the Galatians (4.4) "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law." Fullness in this case has to do with time being up, and God was ready to do, and willing to do, and the time was 'right' to do what He planned forever to do. It's like when you study for the exam, for the program, and finally the morning comes for you to sit the test. The clock ticks over and it's time. Fullness is progressive. The gauge shows quarter full, half full, almost full, and finally full. Then my cup runs over.

 All that to highlight the great comment of the Apostle Paul, "in Him [Y'shua],all the fullness of deity dwelt in bodily form" (Colossians 2.9) Whatever was God, whatever is God, whatever will be God...all of that, all of Him... is in Jesus. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. If you want to know what God likes, what He loves, in what He takes pleasure, look at Jesus. In Him, in bodily form, all the fullness of God dwells. There is beauty. There is form. There is immeasurable satisfaction. And abundance. What joy unspeakable and full of glory. Take a moment. The time is right. The time might just be your time. Even now.

13 March 2012

Finger pointing

The news is all about finger-pointing. Yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald reports, "A distraught flight attendant disrupted an American Airlines flight with warnings that it was going to crash, references to the September 11, 2001 attacks and a rant on the carrier's bankruptcy reorganisation.
Two flight attendants were injured in the incident on Friday, which began as the Chicago-bound flight was about to take off from Dallas, Texas.
Passengers ended up restraining the disruptive attendant until airport police arrived.
"We were pretty frightened," said passenger Greg Lozano of Elmhurst, Illinois. "I was glad we weren't in the air. That was the primary thing I was thinking."
The flight attendant continued to scream as she was handcuffed and removed from the plane, passengers said.
The New York Times and FoxNews point to the price of petrol at the bowser as the reason President Barack Obama's approval rating is dropping again.  Read that below...
It's easy to blame people or things or others or situations or anything but yourself. Consider what happened on the weekend in Afghanistan.   An American soldier opened fire Sunday on villagers near his base in southern Afghanistan and killed 16 civilians, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who called it an “assassination” and furiously demanded an explanation from Washington. Nine children and three women were among the dead.

The killing spree deepened a crisis between U.S. forces and their Afghan hosts over Americans burning Muslim holy books on a base in Afghanistan last month. The Quran burnings sparked weeks of violent protests and attacks that left some 30 dead. Six U.S. service members have been killed by their Afghan colleagues since the burnings came to light, and the violence had just started to calm down.

“This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Karzai said in a statement. He said he has repeatedly demanded the U.S. stop killing Afghan civilians. The Bible says in Isaiah chapter 58.9-10
“Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
    You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
    If you remove the yoke from your midst,
    [remove] The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you give yourself to the hungry
    And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
    Then your light will rise in darkness
    And your gloom will become like midday."
Finger pointing, the blame game, that's the easy part of life. 
Being accused falsely, taking it on the chin, being like Y'shua who bore the brunt of punishment for sins which he had not committed. That's the hard part of life. And the redemptive one. And the only one worthy of this column. And of your emulation.

11 March 2012

Full moon...a monthly moment (Fullness Part I)

Moon over Motel by bobmendo
Moon over Motel, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
Each month, if the clouds allow, I see the moon come to fulness. And this month was one of those months. It also was good to see, as Purim, the Jewish holiday, was marked on the full moon. In fact, we know when to celebrate many Jewish holidays on time because of the moon.

Of course, the moon is always the same shape and size, but when we say 'full moon', we have in mind the reflection of the sun in the surface of one side of the sphere of the moon. The three-dimensional moon becomes full in 2-D, and that 50 hours is the time of the month when the moon is full.

Fulness is a great concept to ponder. Yesterday I thought of the old term pity. And the more modern rendering of pitiful. We use the term in modern days to define someone who is an 'end of his rope' kind of guy. Someone on whom we should show pity. Someone who has messed up his life and brings nothing to the table.

But the Bible says God is pitiful. In the Newer Testament, the apostle James says, ( 5.11) "Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy." Of course that's King James Version, and the modern versions change that word to the more vernacular: "full of compassion",

The NIV dictionary records, "PITY A tender, considerate feeling for others, ranging from judicial clemency (Deut 7:16) through kindness (Job 6:14; Prov 19:17; 28:8) and mercy (Matt 18:33) to compassion (Lam 4:10). Pity may be mere concern for a thing (Jonah 4:10) or for a thing deeply desired (Ezek 24:21). It may also be the concern of God for his holy name (36:21). Pity for one’s children is of the essence of fatherhood, human or divine (Ps 103:13 KJV), inherent in the redemptive activity of God (72:13).

In the NT the Greek word esplangnizo is used to express pity (Luke 10:33). Three Greek words occur once each: eleeo, “have mercy” (Matt 18:33); eusplangchnos, “sympathetic” (1 Peter 3:8); polysplangchnos, “full of compassion” (James 5:11 KJV), referring to God.

In fact, the Peter reference cited here in toto:
1Pet. 3.8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: tells us we are to be pitiful.

Of course, this is to emulate God Himself. This is to be the old rendering of pity, and not the modern pitiful.

This is only one of the fulnesses about which I've been thinking lately. Maybe I'll write more about that in the days ahead.

For now, let the full moon not only tell you about calendar realities, but also about the kindness of the Almighty. Even to you and me, who don't deserve His kindness and pity. And let's take His mercy on board.

And let's be grateful.

09 March 2012


When WAS the party? by bobmendo
When WAS the party?, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

I love going into my refrigerator and finding something from yesterday's dinner. What makes me so happy? Probably the feeling is about the pleasure of eating and preserving both the food and the memory. And I like the idea of saving money by (re)using leftovers.

If we were in a court of law, the word 'leftover' might have to do with defendants who are not yet pronounced guilty, but remain in holding cells. If we were in high finance, we might be speaking about a balance of funds. Antagonists might consider this 'too much of a good thing.'

But I'm not speaking about overrun or abundance. I'm thinking about things that remain. What is left after a thing is over.

When I went for a walk with my golf clubs at Long Reef Golf Club in Collaroy, I saw this cluster of balloons trapped by the wind against this bush. And I thought to myself about the party from which these balloons came. Or the balloons themselves and the energy someone expended to fill them.

So many thoughts.
And a bit of pleasure that my golf ball was not trapped by the same bush.

But about the party... when was it? How far away was it? What did it take for the people to organize and advertise and make it nice for the 1) ballet student at Estedford or 2)the graduate of the university or 3) the 6-year-old son of a carpenter.

All I know is that the balloons which marked the space flew into the bushes. Or maybe I'm even wrong about that one. Maybe they had the party in the bushes. See, how easy it is to guess and to be wrong.

But I'm considering the idea of leftovers. What remains after a thing. And here was what some would consider leftover rubbish, a blight on the beauty of the grounds of the golf course. What else is left after the party? Bills yet to pay. Rubbish (at the house) to clean up. Tired kids to put down for the night.

Evidence is an ironic reality. We see the balloons, and we think festive. What else it represents is what's leftover in our minds from similar events or visuals from our past. Those parties to which we were not invited in school. Those weddings we didn't attend. New Years Eve when I stayed home. You get it.

What's leftover in your mind if I share some words like synagogue, Purim, Pesach, Law, commandments, righteous? Do you feel a need to excuse yourself? Do you get sweaty palms?

God is in the business of loving you and making you welcome in His life. That's an event you don't have to regret missing. Balloons or not, He invites you. Look up, you just might see His hand reaching out to pour out His kindness on you.

07 March 2012

Flying towards the sun

67/366 Icarus by bobmendo
67/366 Icarus, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Icarus is the son of the master craftsman Daedalus. The main story told about Icarus is his attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. He ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned.

The myth shares thematic similarities with that of PhaĆ«ton — both are usually taken as tragic examples of hubris or failed ambition — and is often depicted in art.

I was reminded of the story as I watched the gulls, the crows, and plovers, and so many birds today soaring or walking near me. I saw airplanes and biplanes and a guy was flying his radio-controlled plane all near me in Collaroy.

In modern times, the Hellenic Air Force Academy is named after Icarus, who is seen as the mythical pioneer in Greece's attempt to conquer the skies.

But the warnings of Icarus' father remain.
And God's warnings to us remain.

Pride goes before a fall.

Humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord and He will lift you up.

04 March 2012

A world premiere performance

A world premiere performance by bobmendo
A world premiere performance, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Ann Carr-Boyd wrote the music and the other three performed it. Simple. But it was anything but easy!

Stretzilia is the name of the trio, with Eleanor on cello, Victoria on violin, and Evgeny on piano. They were marvelous and the work they put in to learn and coordinate themselves on Ms Carr-Boyd's work was obvious.

I'm glad I attended the concert held at The Independent Theatre in North Sydney last night. If you can hear them, it's well worth the expense. Check their website at http://www.strelitzia.net.au/

03 March 2012

Blur of insignificance

The car is captured, the scenery a blur as I'm learning new techniques on my camera to do so. I wonder if this driver is a significant person. To me he's a random man. But to his family he's a son or father or brother. To his employees, he's the boss. To his lawyer, he's an endless supply of cash... we are all connected in one way or another with others. But in the world as we know it, we are a blur to others, mere scenery that goes by.

God alone cares for all people on the planet, one by one. We read in the Newer Testament:
Luke 12.7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows." Here Y'shua, the Jewish messiah, is saying you as an individual are significant and relevant and matter to the Almighty.

Here is the context: Luke 12.6-7 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows."

You matter. Your concerns matter to the Almighty. To others, you might blend into 'them', but to God, you are 'you' a person with whom He wants to deal and to share and to extend His love.

Won't you let Him love you today? Or is God a blur in your life?
To everyone else, you might be a blur of 'none of the above' or such, but to God, you matter.

Which car wins?

Race? by bobmendo
Race?, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Unlike this photo where cars on opposite sides of the road are crossing the finish line at about the same time, I have a question. Actually here's a mathematical or geometric test.

Two cars leave Sydney at the exact same moment. One travelling south; the other travelling north. They are the exact same model and make. They travel the same speed, stopping the same length of time at each rest stop and overnight.

They travel the country in opposite directions, of course, and return to the same spot. They are scheduled to arrive 20 days later.

One car arrives significantly earlier than the other. Which one and why?