Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chewing on The Lord's Prayer

I read a book of my mom's a couple years ago called Christ Wisdom (Christopher Page), which looks at each part of the Beatitudes, as well as Lord's prayer, and offers a perspective on the meaning in the words of each. I pulled some highlights from the book that I thought I would share. Something to think about the next time you're taking a wander through the book of Matthew.

"The first Beatitude ... may seem at best ridiculous, at worst offensive. Jesus seems to be saying, "Happy are poor people." But we know that material poverty is no guarantee of happiness. An overdraft at the bank and a stack of unpaid bills do not bring anyone into a state of bliss. It is possible to be miserable in poverty every bit as much as it is possible to be miserable with great wealth. Getting rid of all your possessions and going to live in a homeless shelter will not get you closer to God or any closer to being happy than winning a million dollars in the lottery and retiring to a beach in Bermuda. ... Jesus is not referring to an external condition but to an inner attitude." (p. 20)

"Christianity is not a self-help program; it is a self-surrender program." (p. 20)

"No one had to tell me to hunger and thirst for my fiancee. It did not require self-discipline to long for her. My desire was a natural expression... Similarly, to hunger and thirst for righteousness is our true human condition. Just as it is natural to long for food and water or for a fiancee from whom one is separated, so it is natural for us to long for God. The sad reality, however, is that we often forget what it is wear are really hungry and thirsty for. We forget that our true longing is for God. So we fill our lives with other things to avoid facing the hunger in the deepest part of our being." (p. 39)

"It is a foundational principle of the spiritual journey that we get back from life what we put into life. If we are always pouring forth frantic, grasping, needy, intense, dramatic energy into the world, this is exactly what we will receive back. If we release steady, merciful, peaceful, grounded energy into the world, this is what we will receive in return." (p. 43)

"Richard Rohr says, 'Secular freedom is having to do what you want to do. Religious freedom is wanting to do what you have to do.' ...You can settle for less. You can settle for seeing your own great achievements or for the comfort and distraction of an entertaining life. But anything less than the full surrender that results in seeing God will always leave you empty, dissatisfied and sad at the centre of your being." (p. 52)

"There are times when all our spiritual practice does not seem to make our lives any better or any more rewarding than an ordinary life lived with no reference to God at all. However, we need to know that, if we are looking for the rewards of the spiritual life in the realm of feelings, we are looking in the wrong place. This is why it is easy to fall away from spiritual practice. If we are hoping to get good feelings from our spiritual practice, we will give up when those good feelings vanish, as they inevitably will. Our relationship with God is not about feelings." (p. 61)

"...when Jesus instructs us to pray 'Our Father,' he is telling us that there is something in our nature that is like God. ... The problems we experience in life and in our world all stem from the fact that we lose touch with our true identity. Jesus placed at the beginning of his prayer a reminder of our true nature. We are identified with God." (p. 74)

"God can give bread, but bread is useless unless it is eaten, and God does not force-feed anyone." (p. 102)

"We create what we are. If we are bound, pinched, and tight, we create bound-ness, pinched-ness, and tightness wherever we go. If we are free, open, relaxed, and at peace, we will create freedom, openness, relaxation, and peace wherever we go. We can only receive from God what we are open to receiving. The sign of being open to receive is the ability to pass on what has been received. God offers and offers and offers. The moment I decide to offer, I am opened to be able to receive the grace and the mercy and the welcome that God constantly extends towards me. It is not that I am controlling God. It is simply that I cannot receive that to which I am closed. Nor can I ask from God what I am not able to pass on, because I cannot receive from God what I am not able to share. If I come to you with my arms crossed over my chest and my face set in a stern grimace and say to you, 'Give me a hug,' you are unlikely to fulfill my request. Everything in my body is resisting the hug that I am asking for." (p. 123)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In the Little Things

So, I've been reading this book that I bought on a whim called The Book of Awesome. It's based on the website 1000 Awesome Things, which is a blog devoted to appreciating the little yet ultimately-satisfying things in life, despite this crazy world we live in.

While I don't relate to all the things the author and his fans deem as sheer awesomeness, there are definitely a few that made me laugh out loud knowing that I was not the only one who reveled in a certain guilty pleasure. Or ones that I would read and couldn't help but state aloud, "exactly!"

For example, Awesome Thing #482. Or Awesome Thing #973. Or especially Awesome Thing #797.

It's neat to see the little things that are appreciated by [presumably] large chunks of North American society. I don't generally have a problem appreciating the little things. But generally the "little things" are quite specific to my world. Take today, for instance. Today has been full of little things that have accumulated to a great day:
  • The sun shining.
  • Wearing red.
  • Realizing that my tip of my pony tail now brushes the bottom of my neck (i.e. realizing how long my hair actually is!).
  • Coffee.
  • The words "Aunty Gina" from a child's mouth.
  • Successfully expending said child's energy. ...And that of his sisters, too.
  • Successfully expending that energy outside.
  • An afternoon snack and beverage with friends on a patio in the sun.
  • Friends who let you hone your photography skills using them as models!
  • Seeing the photos that turned out 'right' (oddly enough, one or two perfect photos actually make up for the enormous number that don't quite do what you want).
  • Cats purring.
  • Chick pea salad.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sunny San Francisco!

Last weekend, I was able to take a couple days off work and spend some time with a friend for an extra long weekend in San Francisco and the surrounding area. I cannot even describe how wonderful this little getaway was!

CR and I arrived on Thursday around lunch time. We had a permanent grin on our faces from the time the plane touched down, I think! Thursday was quite windy--gusts of over 50mph (80km/h); coming off the ocean, that breeze was quite crisp! Nevertheless, we traipsed through a bit of downtown SF that afternoon and evening. After an 80-minute bus ride, and going up and down hills through a sketchier part of SF, we were rewarded with delicious burgers at Sliders. Here you could build your own burgers. We started with the Avocado Cheeseburger and went from there. And we had strawberry milkshakes.

Painted Ladies After Sunset

After satisfying our stomachs, we satisfied our eyes by arriving at Alamo Square--home to 360 degrees of horizon city-scape bliss! Part of this city-scape included the Painted Ladies row of houses, which, after seeing on TV all the time growing up (Full House), was such a delight to see! We took in the sunset at this sweet little green space before heading back to the hotel for deep sleep.

Friday was a full day. We took the rapid transit into SF, and started by checking out the piers. We ensured a visit to Pier 39, and took in all the shops and sights. Alcatraz, the sea lions, and lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe were probably the highlights!

After lunch, we made our way over to Lombard Street; renowned for it's zig-zag road through part of it. Lombard Street was something else! These were the steep hills we thought we had mentally prepared for. We definitely stopped to rest more frequently than initially anticipated, I think. On the plus side, this afforded many great picture opportunities along the way, including wild parrots!

We continued down Lombard Street a ways and then caught the bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can't visit San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate Bridge! We also decided that visiting a beach near the bridge sounded good. 2km from the bridge, along a meadow-like path (with a constant view of the water), we arrived at Baker Beach. Oh, how wonderful the hot sand felt on tired, achy feet! ...We did make a point of stepping into the ocean (cold!), and taking more pictures. We also learned the hard way that the northern part of the beach is clothing-optional. This made for a brief awkward period as we deliberated as to if and how we wanted to keep going. We decided to head down to the more all-ages end of the beach instead.

After sitting on the shore for a bit and just taking in the sun and the warmth, it was time to head back onto a bus and visit a friend I hadn't seen in years. My friend BV just completed her Masters of Illustration at the Academy of Art, and took us to the California Pizza Kitchen for supper. Afterwards, we meandered through Chinatown back to her apartment, where we just chilled and chatted for a couple hours. It was so good to catch up with her!

There was not a dull moment as we traipsed through San Francisco. The city is geographically engaging, demographically dynamic, and aesthetically gorgeous. ...Throw in the sunshine and palm trees; how can you go wrong?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Txtng + Drvng

I don't get vocally passionate about a lot of things, but there are a range of safety issues that totally get me riled up when people just don't use common sense: driving impaired; not wearing a seat belt; not wearing a bike helmet; and, as technology has made it an issue, texting while driving. Seriously, how does anyone think this is functional?

(Head's up, this video is quite graphic in the first 60 seconds)

And while that video is a dramatization, those exact scenarios do play out in real life: