Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

In praise of church bazaars: No unhappy people there

I have never seen an unhappy person at a church bazaar. They just make people smile, and that’s something to think about.

When I finish writing this post, I will wrap up the shortbread cookies I baked this week, put some used books in a box, filter through some of the jewelry I don’t wear any more, and I will head over to help set up for tomorrow’s church bazaar.

Last weekend I spent Saturday morning walking from church to church on a long street in my neighbourhood where the United, Anglican and Catholic churches all hold their bazaars on the same day. They’ve been doing this for years, so “Bazaar Day” is a community event and a much bigger financial success for all three.

Churches hold bazaars as fundraisers, of course, but the annual events offer much more than money to the congregation. They are community-building events and a chance for everyone to smile and get into the holiday spirit.

Bazaars are joyful for many reasons. They offer:

  • a chance to meet and greet people from the neighbourhood they don’t see at other times of the year,
  • homemade strawberry jam,
  • the possibility that you will find the spoon to replace the missing one from your cutlery or a glass to replace the broken one from your favourite wine set,
  • an opportunity to refresh holiday decor with the affordable crafts prepared by the talented contributors to bazaars,
  • a mixing of generations, old and young,
  • the blessing of eating other people’s baking,
  • books, (!)
  • and a delicious lunch, that includes homemade pie.

If you need a smile, look up your local church bazaars and give yourself the gift of a smiley day.

ChristmasBazaar2014_Poster_final_web

Learning from our shame: Brené Brown Part II

If you watched the video from my Friday post, this follow-up talk gives a more complete picture of the effects of vulnerability on even the most high-profile “experts.” Brené Brown talks about the repercussions of the first TED talk, and how becoming the “Vulnerability TED action figure”changed her life.

Even she, author of Daring Greatly, had not realized how she had been engineering her life to stay small.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” —Brené Brown

Click here to see her talk:

 

Daring Greatly by being vulnerable: Brené Brown

“Researcher storyteller” Brené Brown touches on some of my favourite topics in the TED talk link below.

Like many people still learning to feel comfortable with the idea that Darwin and the divine are not mutually exclusive, she had to dismantle her “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” philosophy. When she wasn’t able to beat back vulnerability and uncertainty with her measuring stick, she had a breakdown/spiritual awakening. (Funny how often those two go together.)

Her research with people who lived wholeheartedly showed four common traits:

  • Courage to be imperfect.
  • Compassion for others and themselves
  • Connections with others made possible because they did not try to be what they thought they should be but lived authentically
  • Vulnerability and a willingness to do something with no guarantees even when it was uncomfortable.

When people did not live wholeheartedly, they numbed vulnerability through shopping, food, or addiction. They tried to make the uncertain certain.

She mentions religion. At their best, religious communities show courage, compassion, connection and vulnerability. At less than their best, they try to make the uncertainties of faith and mystery certain.

If you’ve never seen her talk before, I think you’ll find it inspirational. If you have seen it before, watch it again. I think you’ll find it inspirational.

“. . . never wait for science to give us permission to do the uncommon.” ~Dr. Joe Dispenza

God-incidences: What is going to surprise you today?

My friend, Étienne, and I learned—again—last week to open ourselves up to surprises and to look for the magic. 

He has spent the last few years studying and working to become a minister with the United Church of Canada. I have shared this spiritual journey with him as part of his discernment team.

Last week, when we arrived for a scheduled meeting with the committee that supports him through this process, we greeted with surprise and delight the other ministry student from our church, Mark, and his support person, Derek. We did not know they would be there. After joyful hugs we decided that lunch was in order, when all the meetings concluded.

Before lunch, the four of us agreed that our lunch would improve greatly with the added presence of our minister, Ellie. When Mark and Derek dropped by the church to invite her to join us, the staff told them they had just missed her; she had stepped out for an appointment. Disappointed but undaunted, we proceeded to the restaurant and ordered lunch.

Meanwhile, Ellie arrived at the place of her appointment a half hour or so ahead of her appointment time; she allowed herself extra time to eat the salad she had packed that morning. She parked in the lot and took out the salad: No fork. She surveyed her surroundings, seeking a place to grab a quick bite. She noticed a small restaurant. As she walked up to the door, she saw through the window the four of us waving at her.

We all laughed at the surprises the day brought: the unexpected meeting of the four of us, the happy opportunity to share lunch together, the unfortunate/fortunate missing fork, the God-incidence of the proximity of the restaurant to the place of the appointment.

“Be open to surprises and look for the magic,” we said.  

Amen to that.

It is Étienne’s birthday today. Happy birthday, my inspired friend.

Photo courtesy of Étienne LeSage

Photo courtesy of Étienne LeSage

Chocolate is good for me, isn’t it?

I prefer savoury foods most of the time, so I rarely eat sweets. When I do crave sweets, chocolate is the answer. 

This morning, I ate a little chocolate with my morning coffee. Imagine how pleased I was, then, when I read the headline”Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth.

All right! Chocolate: Good and good for me; now that was good news.

Alas, my spirits sank as I learned more. First, the Mars Bar people funded the study that yielded these results. No matter how enthusiastically I wanted to believe the findings, I knew I must bear the potential bias in mind. Second, milk chocolate didn’t do the trick; the darker the chocolate, the better. I like dark chocolate, but sometimes a melt-in-the-mouth milk chocolate satisfies the craving best, so the study results dashed yet another hope. Third, the study showed that to achieve any noticeable results, a person would have to consume at least 25 chocolate bars per day. Even my craving-est craving wouldn’t compel me to eat that much chocolate, and the damages would outweigh (pun intended) the benefits. Finally, the study showed that tea, celery, parsley, buckwheat and the white pulp of oranges contain the flavanols that offer the same benefit: From the sublime to the . . . bo-o-o-ring.

Someday scientists might be able to formulate a medication that contains the 900 mg of flavanols required to stave off memory loss. A wonderful idea, but popping a pill would not satisfy in the same way as a decadent milk chocolate bar.

I guess I will make myself a cup of tea, chomp on some celery and add a little dark chocolate at the end. And then, every once in a while I will savour a lovely melt-in-my-mouth milk chocolate decadence, just for fun.  

 

In #MyOttawa, Peace Towers above all

“The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

The gunman who shot Nathan Cirillo this week here in Ottawa was not thinking clearly. The irony of the place of his death was lost on him, I am sure. He died creating chaos in the shadow of the Peace Tower. His angry rampage and his death show us one thing:

Peace Towers above all.

I read the quote at the top of this post in the book Made for Goodness And Why This Makes All the Difference by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu. Martin Luther King Jr. gifted me with the most faith-sustaining quote I have found thus far, and my wish for my city, and for the people of Montreal who also saw one of their own die this week, is that we turn to it now.

It will help us if we remember that every evil act unleashes a search for the good. It will help us if we remember that every act of evil advances us further along the arc of the universe toward justice. It will help us to remember that the arc is long.

Here’s a fact about our city: almost every resident knows someone who works in downtown Ottawa. The federal government employs a large percentage of our population, and most of them work near where the shooting took place. When anything occurs in downtown Ottawa, almost every resident immediately thinks of how it is affecting someone they know—a spouse, a child, a neighbour or someone from their bridge club.

You have to know that a shooting in the downtown core on a workday in Ottawa paralyzed this city in a way it would not in most other places. The news rippled out for miles in every direction, and within that radius, virtually every person had a spouse, a child, a neighbour or a member of their bridge club—someone they knew and loved dearly—in mind.

We are more than a city; we are an interconnected community.

We have not had a high profile on the world stage. Here is a version of a conversation I have had often when travelling in other countries:

PERSON FROM THE OTHER COUNTRY (PFTOC): Where are you from?

ME: Ottawa

(awkward pause while the person tries to politely figure out how to tell me he has no idea where that is)

ME: . . .  Canada

PFTOC: Ah, yes. Canada.

(visions of polar bears and RCMP officers dance in his head)

ME: It’s the capital city, you know.

PFTOC: Really? I thought Toronto was the capital.

ME: Oh, sigh.

Often I wonder, why do people not know about the capital city of Canada? Perhaps more do now; this week international media have their cameras and their news feeds focused on us. The writings cover many different angles of the story: the words of love whispered to Nathan Cirillo as he lay dying [if you read nothing else, read this], the Canadian national anthem played at the Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers game [thanks for that], the rivals in the House of Commons embracing [rivalries are vapours, really] , the long, hard day of devastated Muslims in our city [please read that one too], and the inevitable security concerns.

The events this week in Montreal and Ottawa started international conversations, and when we discuss acts of terror or evil, what we’re really doing is asking: How can we create good from this? Desmond Tutu suggests that we are made for goodness, and I believe these conversations, unleashed by an act of terror, help us search for the good. They show us that any action taken out of hatred, revenge or anger fails in the long run.

Because Peace Towers above all.

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