26 January 2013

You sure don't look Jewish

Jewish mother and son by bobmendo
Jewish mother and son, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

The story is told of the Jewish congregation in Tokyo, one August day. Their rabbi died and there was no local replacement. They contacted the synagogue in New York and asked for help. Sure enough, a rabbi from the US would be available in time for the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). Not to worry.

A couple weeks later, the email arrived at the Japanese synagogue with flight details. The president of the synagogue and the gabbai went to collect (fetch) the rabbi from Haneda, the airport in Tokyo. They held the sign "Rabbi Cohen" and waited outside customs.

Finally, a bearded man came out of the customs queue and approached the Japanese men. "I'm Rabbi Cohen," he stated.

"Funny," the president of the synagogue said, "you shue no look-a Jewish!"

What does it mean to 'look Jewish?" Does Kirk Douglas or Adam Sandler or Woody Allen or Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts or Natalie Portman? How about Sasha Baron Cohen?

I hear this once in a while in our shop or as I represent Jews for Jesus around the globe. Some say, "You look exactly as I imagine Jesus would look" while others say, "You sure don't look Jewish."

Appearances can be deceiving. Look at this photo of the Virgin Mary and the baby in her arms. Who would guess that this church, in Randwick, a suburb of Sydney, is founded on a Jewish boy, born to a Jewish woman? He looks more Roman than Jewish. He looks more infantile than adult. She looks more regal than as she was, the simple teenaged wife of a simple carpenter in a small village in Israel 2000 years ago.

What things are you missing because of appearances? Have you read the Bible lately? Or did you think it a book for grandmothers and simpletons? Or have you been to a gathering of God's people lately? Or did you think it a place of too many 'goody goodies', and straight-laced folks who are 'holier than thou' and thus not real? Are they too judgmental and religious? Maybe the appearances are not what is actually there? How will you know?

This weekend, when so much is happening here in country, (Full moon, Australia Day, Tu Bish'vat, International Holocaust Remembrance Day), check out who God is, who Y'shua is, what church is... you might be surprised at what you find. You might not, but that's the risk/ reward, isn't it?

25 January 2013

Not as they seem

Of course if you were walking next to me yesterday at Bondi Junction, you would know that the boards on the building to my right are actually lined up nice and neat, all in a row. They are parallel lines, and not angled as you see. But that's the thing about photography. Sometimes things are not as they seem.

We learned that in art class in 4th grade, where certain colors combined to form an entirely different one and are not as they seem. Or where the vanishing point as evidenced here is the place where all these parallel lines converge. A good artist must consider those when he begins a piece, especially concerning perspective.

Each day we are met with opportunities to conclude, to decide, to judge, almost from the moment the opportunity arrives. And if we are wise, we are slow to judge, and proper in our evaluation of things. I don't do that all the time, and I'm guessing you don't either.

If we set our minds on the biblical perspective, on the 'things above', where Y'shua is seated at the Right Hand of the Father, then we get things right. Our minds are re-fixed. We start over. We re-visit things and find the true angles and the true nature of things.

Why not do that today? He's waiting. At the distant vanishing point. But he's not gone.

24 January 2013

Postponing

Putting it away by bobmendo
Putting it away, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Delays are normal in my neighborhood. Almost daily I watch as the crew from the local Council comes to continue repairs on the drainage ditch outside my house. It was supposed to be a two-day job, but due to concerns up near Council chambers (another hole in the street), our boys were required up there. OK, that happens. Job postponed.

The photo I took the other day of the hamper project is all about your being able to buy things now, but not really. You set aside funds weekly, and they keep your layby (US folks read: Lay away) materials until needed later, hopefully you will have paid it off by Christmas for giving then. Sensible delaying.

Winston Churchill said, “Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.” That quote can keep me going for days!

Sometimes delays are useful or imposed or granted or required. Sometimes they are annoying, as in peak hour traffic conditions when I need to be somewhere faster on the other end.

The Hebrew word for delay in the Bible is "Achar" and can also have to do with behind or after. As in stay late or linger. Not in the loiter sense, but in the remain sense. I like that. That sounds like a choice the lingerer makes. True, often delays happen to us, but sometimes we delay in doing or saying or thinking things.

For instance, the biblical command is “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me." (Exodus 22.29) OK, it's yours, but God says, "bring it to me." And tells you when to do it. Not 'whenever' but 'at the appointed time.'

Similarly in Deuteronomy (before it was a Broadway cat, it was a Bible book), we read, "When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you." (Chapter 23. verse 21) OK, timing is not everything, but it is a thing!

King David had this aching and persistent problem and prayed to God as it is recorded in Psalm 70. "But I am afflicted and needy; Hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay." (verse 5). So we are asking with David for God's intervention. Do not delay.

Does that mean "Now!" Usually. We as people are fairly demanding of our deity. We expect Him to operate in our time schedule. We expect instant results and delays and postponements are unacceptable, especially if they are a regular occurrence.

Today on Capitol Hill in the Washington, DC, Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, was called to testify in the BenGhazi affair. And the committee wanted to know why she delayed in affording proper protection for the staff of the embassy. We simply do not appreciate delay.

But God's timing is not our timing. "At the right time" is not "at my time." For some reasons He delayed in saving my people from slavery in Egypt UNTIL he got to it in the time of Moses. For some reasons He delayed in sparing us in the times of the Crusades and Inquisition and pogroms UNTIL he got to it.

He does get to it.
He does save us.
He does it in His time.

His time is not our time.
His time is always right.

I don't always think His time is right.
I'm often wrong.

Faith is this, it's confidence in the God who acts according to His purposes and for His glory. I trust Him. He will make us look like Him. He will make us think and act and love like Him. Until that day we wait. And pray. And believe.

I recommend you do the same. Today.

20 January 2013

You don't see him

18/365 Cutting concrete by bobmendo
18/365 Cutting concrete, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

This speedy saw is ripping through my street, and readying the drainage area for a new, replacement drain. That will be nice, I hope, and prevent the collection of the leaves and puddles in front of my driveway like it has for 14 years.

I like the power of the saw. I like the precision. I like the energy it produces and by which it runs. And I liked the fellow who was holding the saw and causing all the stir.

Except you don't see him, do you? You know he's there. How else will the saw be running so well and with such ease and propriety? I even put this photo in the 'set' (like a scrapbook) titled, "People at work." But you don't see the workman.

Next month is the Jewish holiday of Purim, the celebration of the saving of the Jewish people in Shushan when Esther, the queen, approached Ahashuerus the king, and managed to get the curse of death off our people. Great story. Well worth the read, if you haven't. It's in the short book of the Bible titled, "Esther."

One thing you will not see in the book, and this might surprise you, if you are new to religion, is that there is no mention of God in the entire little booklet. What? But surely they mention Him on every page, or every paragraph, right? Nope, not in this case.

You see results and effects of His being there. You see the reality of those who reject Him. But you don't ever see God. Just like you don't see the workman in this photo. He is, but he isn't.

Like a Broadway theater producer or director, the Living God is there, but not on stage. I can live with that. Maybe you can also.

Get to know Him. You will begin to see Him more and more, and in unlikely places. Like in your circumstances of life as well.

That couldn't hurt.

19 January 2013

Hottest day in history

Yup, true temps by bobmendo
Yup, true temps, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Back in 2011 I was in Kansas City when the summer temp hit a whopping 109, and I could barely move. That's 42.4 celsius and way over the top of usual for that city and for most cities. That said, you will know how blazingly hot and stifling the weather was yesterday here in Sydney when the mercury hit 45.8 degrees in the city at 2.55pm. The previous high of 45.3 degrees was recorded in January 1939 at Observatory Hill.

For your information, 45.8 Celsius is 114.44 degrees Fahrenheit. That's sizzling. And our air conditioner at the office went out a few days earlier and the soonest the repairman could come is Monday to come. So we turned on the fan. We wished for better days, and we carried on.

What do you do when the weather heats up? What do you do in winter when the snow knocks out your plans in Jerusalem (last week) for an outdoor activity? Or when ice and rain ruin something for which you longed? Weather comes and weather goes. That's a guarantee. We can watch it on the TV news and plan a bit, but honestly, when it comes, you are at its mercy.

We call it 'mother nature.' When did that term come into modern use? Although the term "mother earth" is ancient, from the Greeks and other civilizations, according to Wikipedia, "The leaders of the Enlightenment believed that the knowledge must be widely known and must be pondered. However, nature was analogous to God and could not be examined. The believers and leaders of the Enlightenment had to separate nature from God. This led to the feminization of nature, the creation of the word: Mother Nature. Boyle suggested that examination of man is an examination of God. Therefore, nature had to be converted to woman, "a great . . . pregnant automation" to be examined. Bacon suggests that a man must inquisite truth through penetrating into these holes and corners, a sexual metaphor that feminizes nature. When nature was feminized and degraded, Carolyn Merchant suggests that it made possible for people to exploit and study it. Hence comes the word mother nature come in to play. These scientists utilized sexual metaphors to create a feminized nature - mother nature - so that it could be studied and exploited."

Thanks Wikipedia.

That said, 'mother nature', however you understand it, does what it wants to do. The wind blows where it will. You hear the sound of it but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. We make our plans to fly to NZ, knowing that the jet stream usually will make the trip to New Zealand faster than the trip back to Sydney. But you really don't know, do you?

Humility is the only reasonable response to the realities of Mother Nature.

Humility is the only reasonable response to the reality of God.

Humility is my recommendation for you and me today. And if your weather is over 40 (c) degrees, I recommend the museum or library where the air conditioner is still operational. That's also reasonable. I'll see you there!

14 January 2013

The long and winding road

The long and winding road by bobmendo
The long and winding road, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Barry McGuire (New Christy Minstrels) sang a song circa 1975 "Happy Road."

Chorus:
"Why it's a happy road
That I'm traveling on.
I just can't help myself
You've got me singing a happy song.

Sun is shining
I know it won't be long
Until your happy road is
Taking me home."

This chorus is full of great confidence. No matter when we pass away, we know the Lord will guide us. That sounded like a sub-theme in the poem. By the way, McGuire is still alive and kicking and doing concerts throughout the US and elsewhere.

In the same song McGuire wrote, "[I've] been out on the highway 39 years... sometimes it feels just like a day."


Trails. Happy road. 39 years. Sometimes it feels just like a day.

McGuire continued his poem, "I've seen a lot of heartaches
I've shared a lot of tears,
But then You came
And you took 'em all away."

Has God taken all my sorrows away? Not yet. Has God made my road 'happy'? In many significant ways, very much so.

The last three months I've been off duty, not officially working for Jews for Jesus. I've been on long-service leave, a sabbatical. What a great time of refreshing and restoration. A time of renewal and internal and external reward.

One of the things Patty (my wife) and I did throughout the time was go on many walks. We climbed Signal Hill and Table Mountain in South Africa. We walked through a dusty village outside Livingston, Zambia and along the side of Victoria Falls. On our 6th day of serious climbing, barely represented by this one photo, we ascended Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I'll be reflecting a lot about that one over the years. That sixth day began at midnight as we climbed for six hours and arrived at 6 a.m., turned around and saw the sunrise behind us. We carried on another 90 minutes and then finally began descending, which we did for another 5 hours that day.

All the photos from Kili are here on Flickr
Patty and I climbed in Jordan to the top of Petra. We climbed in Israel to Mt Meron's top, near Safed with our friends Efraim and Jeanie Goldstein. Trails, everywhere. We went to the USA and visited our daughter in Tennessee.

During that visit we went to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and climbed to the top of Old Smokey. Yes, it was [in part] all covered with snow. Trails. Everywhere, there were trails.

And it's a long and winding road. I'm only 61 years old. I anticipate being on this trail of life a bit longer, although you never know. Younger people die each day, so I will not be so bold as to declare my longevity.

That said, I do anticipate my life continuing and the image of the long and winding road (nod to Lennon/ McCartney) is one that keeps me going. In some places there is a bit of easy walking, where a footpath (sidewalk) already has been laid. In other places, the climb is much harder, nothing smooth about it. Rocks, boulders, thick sand, high grade... all can contend with the ease we desire.

I'm willing and sometimes ready to take on the trail ahead of me. I desire God's hand to guide me and to strengthen me, and at times to lift me up on (or back onto) the trail.

It is long. It is winding. That makes it worthwhile. That makes it adventurous. That makes our need for trust in the One who made all things that much more evident.

Thanks @BarryMcGuire and God bless you today. Thanks be to God for His keeping me these 61 years. Thanks to Patty for the adventure-sharing we've done for 36 of those years.

Will you join us on this adventure? Will you trust Y'shua, the author (initiator) and finisher of the our faith? "Until your happy road is taking me home."