Category Archives: Living life to the fullest

3 important answers to 3 important questions: Tolstoy

three-questionsI shared the book The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth with my Sunday school class on Sunday. Muth took an original short story written by Leo Tolstoy and reworked it with animal characters to appeal to children.

In the book, a boy named Nikolai goes on a journey to seek answers to three BIG LIFE questions:

  1. “When is the best time to do things?”

  2. “Who is the most important one?”

  3. “What is the right thing to do?”

His steps lead him to encounters with a heron, a monkey and a dog. Each of these characters answers the questions in a way that reflects personal biases. The heron suggests the best time to do things arrives only after everything has been planned in advance. The dog believes the most important one is the one who makes the rules, and the monkey knows the right thing to do is to have fun all the time.

Not satisfied, Nikolai climbs a high mountain to seek the answers to his questions from a wise old turtle. When he reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the wise, old turtle with a shovel in his hands digging a garden. Knowing that a young boy digs much faster than an old turtle, Nikolai takes the shovel and finishes turning over the hard soil. When he is leaning on his shovel after the last shovel full of dirt, he hears a cry for help coming to him out of the windblown forest. He follows the sound and finds a panda knocked out by a fallen tree. Nikolai rescues her and takes her to the turtle’s house to get warm. When the panda wakes up, she asks, “Where is my child?” Alarmed, Nikolai runs back to the forest where he finds the baby panda, shivering and alone.

Before Nikolai departs, he and the wise old turtle reflect on the answers the boy has found to his three questions.

  1. “There is only one important time, and that time is now.”

  2. “The most important one is always the one you are with.”

  3. “The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

Muth concludes: “For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world.”

Tolstoy sure was one wise old turtle.

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.  

 

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