Showing posts from 2016

Ending well: Repeat performance

Back in 2014, I was the chaplain on the Moscow summer campaign and each day brought a new message from the Bible, specifically from the Book of Joshua in the Tenach, and found life lessons for the teams. Here in Sydney yesterday we finished our 2-week campaign and I found these words that I gave in Russia to be something perhaps the campaigners can appreciate. So I reissue them in full at the bottom or you can simply click the following link:
Here's the link: (just click on the underlined "link")

Campaigns like the one in Sydney, where over 45,000 people individually received a flyer inviting response, where over 50 Jewish and 60 Gentiles who don't yet believe gave us their information for further follow-up information, where the weather and the weatherman cooperated... well, they are a highlight for many. Our youngest member in his 20s and our oldest in her 70s all gave so well that it was a joy to work together. We bannered and read Psalms, and handed out leafle…

Overlap: Christmas/ Hanukkah WHAT is the big deal?

It's not every year these two holidays which have nothing to do with each other occur on the same date. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (or Chanukkah, or Channukah or however you want to spell it) starts on the lunar calendar date of 25 Kislev. The Christmas celebration is celebrated on the solar calendar on 25 December. And this year, 2016, those two dates collide and help us to have some great fun with the joys of the season.

Of course this Jewish holiday was not a major festival, that is, not until the late 19th century, when Christmas (which also was not a major holiday of the year) grew in epic capitalistic proportions. As the holiday became the reason for shopping, the shop owners drove it more and more into what it is today, which is barely recognizable as the birthday of the leader of the religion. And Hanukkah which celebrates a military victory is merely an excuse for many for a "Jewish Christmas."

These two Canadian actors and Yiddish specialists perform a…

When you do this or that

Last night I went to a shiur. That's a Bible lesson taught by a rabbi, and he was speaking about the parsha (the weekly portion of Torah read in the synagogue in this case, in the upcoming Saturday). He referenced Jewish law (halacha) and specifically rules applying to men and not to women. The rule, if I understood him correctly, is that laws related to time (building a sukkah, praying at certain times of day, etc) are specifically for men to obey, and not required of women. It was not the rabbi's main point, but it caught my ear.

This morning I pondered Yeshua's words recorded in the beginning of the Brit Hadasha. He was speaking about religion and religious activities when he said, "when you fast... when you pray... when you give charity..." And he was speaking to a crowd at the time. (This is recorded in Matthew chapter 6). He didn't say, "This is for the gents. Ladies, I'll get to you later." He didn't say, "This is for those of …

Empty and filling: life lessons abundant

In the United States, President-elect Donald Trump is filling up his cabinet, his inner sanctum of strategic advisers, whom he will deploy to accomplish his wide-ranging agendas. Some serious Washington insiders are listed and there are more to come. Back in October, cartoonist Ben Garrison set in the American mind this cartoon of 'draining the swamp.'
The promises of P-E Trump include the removing of things unpopular in Washington, DC, and especially what might be titled 'swamp' but many are wondering if the choices of insiders like Steven Mnuchin. (Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager and former Goldman Sachs executive, is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for Treasury secretary) What about Tom Price (HHS), and Elaine Chao (Transportation)? More about each as they come along here on Vox . They seem to be insiders from the swamp.

Here in Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (pictured) is set to reshuffle his front bench, as close to the US Cabinet as …

Howard Hughes, Rules Don't Apply: A review

I'm not an expert on Howard Hughes. I didn't see the 2006 movie about Clifford Irving, the fake Hughes biographer, starring Richard Gere in Irving's role in "The Hoax." Leonardo de Caprio's performance as Hughes in "The Aviator" (2004) featured his earlier life in Hollywood and in the airline industry from the 1920s and 1930s. Warren Beatty's 'biography' of Hughes picks up and ends in 1964, so there is no overlap with Aviator. Beatty's super-involvement included producing, directing, writing the screenplay, and acting as the lead character. Let me highlight a few moments of the film.

Four main characters feature: Beatty as Hughes, Lily Collins as Marla Mabrey, Matthew Broderick as Levar Mathis, and Alden Ehrenreich as Frank. (For those who follow this blog about many Jewish concerns, the last three of these listed have Jewish ancestry). Other characters are played by the likes of Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen in more t…

Why do they 'celebrate' Thanksgiving?

I'm visiting in the US until Saturday, so I'm experiencing all the rituals of Thanksgiving, including but not limited to overeating, a glut of football games, times with family, overeating, raking leaves, watching the Christmas decorations light up, overeating (Did I mention that already? I was too busy napping from the tryptophan overload.) So maybe those of my readers in Australia and elsewhere might want a quick lesson in the holiday.

Click once on each photo to see full-size version
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists from the UK and local Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies which would later be called the United States of America. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be he…

Be seated. Another view on sitting in heaven. (Part 2)

In my first writing last year on this idea of Messiah here   being seated I majored on his victory. That is, that Messiah is seated like a priest who has concluded his work.  In this writing I want to ponder the idea of enthronement as judgment. That is, that when a ruler is seated, he is able to make decisions and rule from a position of authority.

In 2 Kings 19.15 we read, "And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD and said, “O LORD, the God of Israel, who art enthroned above the cherubim, Thou art the God, Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. Thou hast made heaven and earth." (19.15)  God is proclaimed here as both Creator and the Enthroned One. Then Hezekiah continues, "the kings of Assyria have devastated the nations and their lands and have cast their gods into the fire, afor they were not gods but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. So they have destroyed them. And now, O LORD our God, I pray, deliver us from his hand that all the kingdoms of the earth m…

After the election...and a football game

Donald Trump will be the president of the US beginning on 20 January next year. Full disclosure: I was not a Trump fan ever, whether as a politician or even as a person. Still, he will be my president come 20 January. These are realities. I will not speak against him as our president. I will continue to pray for him as the Apostle Paul taught in his letter to young Timothy. "Pray for all in authority," was the instruction and I will comply.

A week ago the Seattle Seahawks played a grueling anyone-can-win football match against the Buffalo Bills. There was a lot of pushing and shoving, a lot of sledging (Yanks, that is Aussie-speak for trash talk), and much involvement by the 12th man, the Seattle fans in the stadium. The announcers on the television took issue with a defenseman, the cornerback Richard Sherman, and the Bills' coach Rex Ryan even called the decision by the referees 'ridiculous' when Sherman ran into the kicker for the Bills near the end of the fir…

Donald Trump: The first 3rd party winner

Let me first join in with both Hillary and Donald in their defeat/victory speeches on Election Night/ Day and wish the disunity would stop. Americans need to get beyond the hatred and strife which characterized the last 18 months of the circus of the elections. That is a base of reality which I will again mention at the end of this blog.

Over the course of months I watched, albeit from afar, the horse race which was the US elections this year. It was easy to get some updates almost hourly, certainly daily, on the big race for president. Hundreds of other contests were decided on Tuesday this week, of course, including local propositions and senators and congress people, but all eyes seemed to be on the two main candidates, determined by the longer-than-ever primary season and the rubber stamping national conventions. And by now, informed people know that Donald J Trump is the president-elect. He will assume command on 20 January as is the national custom at his inauguration.

I wrot…

The Bradley effect and President-elect Trump

Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th president of the USA. This was a shock to many, but not to the 37 million Americans who voted for him and Mike Pence, his running mate. He made promises over the last 18 months during his campaigns and even in his acceptance speech given in New York City at 7 pm Sydney time, which is about 3 am along the US East Coast. He promised to double growth in no set time. Will he build a wall between the US and Mexico? Will he practice what he preached about 'all Americans' and move from businessman to TV personality, to candidate, to statesman? Only time will tell.

The map of the vote (and the headline) on the New York Times website is fascinating.

Donald turned many historically blue states into bright red. He rode the waves of 'change' and 'anti-Establishment' all the way to the White House where he will find his oval office in less than 80 days. Americans are frustrated; let's see if this turns out better.

During the…

Fever heat of summer

I had to take this photo yesterday. It was stinking hot outside. 36 celsius is over 100 Fahrenheit. And it's only November. Early November at that! What does the summer plan to bring us? No matter what it was a tough day to be outside, not only to walk around and do anything.

The one phrase that kept popping into my mind while near Windsor this afternoon was "the fever heat of summer." Is that something from Shakespeare? From Milton? Dante, of course. Nope, it was none of those. It was written by a man named David. And he well knew something about summer heat. He lives in Israel. In summer and winter and all year at times.

The occasion for his writing this poem (named Psalm 32) is not known. But we do know some things about David's life and his religious practices. He wrote a similar poem in Psalm 51 after being caught out in an adulterous affair with his neighbour. This psalm is another penitential poem which might have been written at the same time.

David is p…

Paid in full

Jeni B went to the pub Saturday night. On entry she paid the admission fee and enjoyed time with her friends. I met her on Sunday morning at her church in Cherrybrook, in Sydney's Northwest. She showed me this stamp on her wrist. That's customary for many places in town, to allow for entry and reentry. If you cannot read the letters, it says, "Paid" and the date "29 October 2016." Jeni made some comments that inspired me, and this blog is a reflection of some of her comments.

You might also notice the book on which her wrist is placed is a Bible. It's open to a section in one of Paul's letters. In verse 20, it reads, "for you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." In context, the reference is part of a series of considerations: 1) about justice and not taking fellow believers to court, 2) about food and living in the sufficiency of moderation, and 3) about sexual activity, and being faithful. The Bible is tea…

All in the name: Truth in advertising

I don't know when the change happened. But it's everywhere now. When I was young, and our family went out to eat, we would order from the menu, and the items would have names like 'meatloaf' or 'veal parmigiana' or 'spaghetti and meatballs.' Mind you, in those days, ethnic foods were not that available in restaurants, at least not the ones we would visit in our infrequent outings. Main ethnic foods were prepared at home, by my mother or our grandmothers, and whatever was served, that was our dinner. And that was it.

Sometime in the last few decades, and perhaps because of allergies or the desire among many to eat healthier, the tendency has been to name just about every ingredient in each individual item on a menu. Now if you order a simple you will read, "Surf N Turf (350 GM Aged Sirloin) Finished with sauteed prawns and squid in a garlic sauce(Cooked medium)" or if you want Chicken Tikka masala, which is a fairly simple Indian dish, you m…

Tranquility in vivo

So much of life is turbulent. We get disturbed when we read the newspaper and see the suffering of Syrians in Aleppo. There are gunshots spraying over university campuses or in shopping centres. Worries arise in respect to the falling British pound and the dissatisfaction with the American electoral process. Life seems difficult and without calm.

Dr Bruce Wells wrote in this article in June this year about depression and worrying. He says, "Worrying excessively can lead to a host of physical and mental problems such as hypochondria, muscle tension, chronic indigestion, poor sleep, irrational fears, panic, self-consciousness, stage fright, compulsive behaviours, and perfectionism. You may think that worrying will help you avoid bad things from happening, lessen the impact of bad things, or help you come up with solutions. But worrying is actually the problem, not the solution."

So Dr Wells gives six solutions which might help.
Rather than be …

Conjuring up images: Isaiah 60

Maybe I shouldn't use the term 'conjuring.' It might make you think of Macbeth or even earlier, as history shows, Shakespeare took note of The Three Witches or Weird Sisters or Wayward Sisters whose origin lies in Holinshed's Chronicles (1587), a history of England, Scotland and Ireland. But to 'conjure' is more than the witch's notion. Merriam-Webster says the simple Definition of conjure is
"1) to make (something) appear or seem to appear by using magic
2) to make you think of (something)
3) to create or imagine (something)"

OK, so I want you to imagine with me what Isaiah is saying in his wonderful passage in what we label "Chapter 60." Remember he didn't write in chapters like modern novelists do.

Is. 60.2 “For behold, darkness will cover the earth
And deep darkness the peoples;
But the LORD will rise upon you
And His glory will appear upon you.

I let my mind wander as I read and even memorised this passage a couple w…

What is love, after all?

It's not even Valentine's Day, but I'm thinking about love. Yes, emotional love. Yes, real love. I'm not even watching a chick flick on an airplane, although I have done that. Hey, nothing wrong with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together. No, the word 'love' is bandied about so often and so far... it does require some thinking on it, don't you reckon? And after we have thought about it, maybe we should discuss it?

Nothing like Shakespeare's 116th sonnet to help us on the subject.
I quote it in full. Forgive me if you aren't used to these 14-liners from the Bard.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and ch…

Amazing grace: Being edited

Many of us Jewish people spent hours and hours the last couple weeks dealing with personal issues, repenting of sins committed, and asking God and others to forgive us. We anticipated that God, who set up these High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, would be somewhat vested in being there on the other end of the long phone call to Him.

There was talk about judgment and about eternity; there was consideration of repairing the breach and making things right. It was deep, emotional, considerate. And all the while, many in the row in front of us or behind us, or who never even darkened the doorway to enter the synagogue, seemed to be less inclined to dig deep and ponder what was hitting us so deeply. Should they be so sure that their prayers or thoughts were heard by the very busy Almighty? What is their take-away from all this religious activity?

I saw this above image of the editing erasure on another blog yesterday. It struck me personally. When I talk to God, in prayer, as…

Hope, where is it? A Yom Kippur message

G’mar Chatimah Tovah. May you be inscribed and sealed at the end for good. That’s one of the best greetings on this holiday. Of course, when I grew up the greeting was “good yontif.” And then we wish each other an easy fast. And a common reply as we ponder not eating for 25 hours is “I hope so!” Everyone from Desmond Tutu to Albert Einstein to another 10,000 quick find entries has a comment about the idea of hope. Mumford and Sons, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, John Longmire and Jason Day…everyone has a hope and a dream and a quote on Wikipedia, or so it seems.

Ask for a quote on emotion or Sydney Swans, or a quote on wisteria or bottle brushes and you will find hundreds, but type in ‘hope’ and this request will garner 10,000 before I can even finish clicking my computer’s “Find” button. Here’s one: “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr. And another from the wife of the current US president, “You may not always have a comfort…