Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Anyway, in all my travels I started reading a book about the life of Einstein. This brilliant man was a wonderful friend to many around him who shared his passion for learning and discovery. However, authority figures were frequently put off by his seeming disregard for their position and the accepted social and political practices of the time. His direct and abrasive manner caused him to lose marks at school, brought many to scoff at his methods and theories, and cost him more than a few jobs. But it seems that his supposed problem with authority was exactly what enabled him to go beyond the accepted scientific thoughts and theories of the day. He did not accept the order of things around him, but looked for something more satisfying. Something larger.
He dismissed rote learning. He taught by asking questions. He invited anyone to argue and wrestle over grand problems with him. He looked for unity in the universe, believing that the many natural laws of physics could be connected by something greater (the theory of relativity). His formulas led him to the frustrating conclusion that the universe was expanding, a notion that he tried hard to ignore. At first, he even fudged some of his findings in an effort to reinforce the view of a static universe, but he could not ignore the numbers. The man who questioned everything knew that he had to follow the logic, even if it implied that there was a point of creation, an idea he had been unwilling to embrace.
People who do great things are often those who end up kicking against authority in some way. I don't believe questioning authority is wrong in itself, but it can lead to some unhealthy attitudes if we are not humble in seeing our own limitations. Passively working within the system we find ourselves in, however, almost guarantees nothing of greatness will ever come from us. It is a supposedly safer, yet in reality far more dangerous way to live, for in doing so we sacrifice all our potential for the sake of the familiar, the comfortable, the predictable, and the easy answers. It is the submission to something small.
Let me always submit myself to the largest Mystery I can find.
These are some deer prints that we found along the road while on a walk near Dominion Hill.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Two of the tests they featured caught my attention. One was the claim that the American flag that was planted on the moon is seen to be waving in the breeze in a video and the reasoning is that in the vacuum of the moon, this should not be possible. The other one was that in a picture taken of an astronaut climbing down from the lunar module, he is in the shadow of the space vehicle and yet he is quite brightly lit, leading some to claim that this was a staged photo with a second light source.
They tested the first theory by swiveling a flag (as if planting it in the ground) in an earthly environment, and then doing the same test in a vacuum simulating the moon's atmosphere. In our atmosphere, the flag waved as the stick was being moved, then quickly became still once the motion stopped. So far, so good. One could understand why the waving flag looked odd in the moon landing video. Then the flag and stick were placed in a vacuum and the same motion was made. The flag continued to wave long after the movement of the stick had stopped. Why? The resistance of the air in the Earth's atmosphere caused the movement to subside quickly, whereas in a vacuum where there is no air resistance, the flag continued its fluttering motion even after the stick had stopped moving. What seemed to be a breeze on earth was in fact the natural law of a vacuum.
The second discrepancy concerned a photo of an astronaut in the shadow of the lunar module. He is not cast in a dark shadow as one would expect. Once again, the people of Mythbusters tried to simulate the scenario. This meant building a mini version of the moon landing scene and obtaining something that resembled moon dust. The surface of the moon is known to have a much higher retro-reflectivity than earth, so they sprinkled a substance with the same albedo (reflectance of planetary surface) under the model of the scene. A picture was taken and voila! The reflective quality of the surface did in fact light up the white-clad astronaut much more than a picture taken on earth would have. The term sometimes used to describe this glow is Heiligenschein (German for "holy light"). 
A reading I was doing yesterday from C. S. Lewis talks about how we make the error of taking ourselves as the starting point and how this skews so much of our thinking.  Certain earth-bound people who looked at these photos and pictures of another world made the mistake of assuming that things would happen in the same way there as they do here, in the world they were familiar with. There was no recognition of greater freedom of movement because they were used to the restriction of their own atmosphere. There was no allowance for a greater light, a "glory" to be seen, because they were used to shadow and dark places. These things just could not be real because they did not match up with what they had observed around them thus far.
I have the feeling that my starting points are being challenged. I assume certain things about who I am, and how I relate to others, and how things will go in my life, and what church is all about, and what happens when I talk to God, and how he deals with humankind, and who God is. The problem is that all too often, I start with me and what I have perceived thus far. I leave little room for unfettered freedom and glows of glory because I am not used to experiencing them. I explain them away. I ignore them. I keep living like the atmosphere around God is the same as the atmosphere that I know, and like God planting a big sloppy wet kiss on earth does not change any of this earthly substance. 
But it did and it does. If I am ever to tread in new and uncharted places, I must give up my small and inadequate starting points. Let it begin with the biggest starting place I know, and that is God.
1. see Retro-reflection phenomena on http://www.wikipedia.com/
2. from Mere Christianity
3. a line from the song, "How He Loves," by John Mark McMillan
This is the Ferris wheel at Niagara Falls on a cloudy, not too reflective, day.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
And so I put it up for sale on http://www.craigslist.ca/ (I love craigslist!) on Tuesday, July 7. I had three calls within the next few days. All the prospective buyers looked my car over and offered me money for it. Of the three gentlemen that I met, Nasir from Pakistan was the one that I wanted to sell my car to. He was a recent engineering graduate and a family man with a new baby and elderly visiting parents, and this was to be his first automobile in Canada. He was excited about owning a car, even though it presented some challenges for him, like learning how to drive on the right side of the road and shift with his right hand. He also offered me the best price, though his final offer came in $100 lower than I had hoped to get for my car. I asked God to somehow close the gap, whether through giving Nasir some money or having me find $100 on the sidewalk or whatever he saw fit.
We left it for a few days and I received no other better offers on my car, so I called Nasir and accepted his price, deciding that $100 was nothing to be concerned about. He was very happy and we made the exchange on Saturday morning. Six days later, I am still very content to be car-less. I plan my errands in advance to make the best use of my time and love getting outside to walk on a regular basis. If is it raining, I just postpone things or take the bus or wait for Dean's car. There is always a creative solution to be found, and I feel a new sense of freedom from the faux urgency of life and the chronic consumerism that is part of so much of life in the Western world.
Yesterday, someone unexpectedly gave me $100. I didn't make the connection between my prayer and the gift until this morning. As always, God is very good at closing the gaps, but often asks me to trust him first so that I don't confuse his characteristic faithfulness with things magically working out in my life. Whether I received the extra $100 or not, I was content, and I think that's more valuable than any money that came my way.
This is me, taking a brief stop at the pond to enjoy the scenery on my walk to the mall to do some banking yesterday.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I have become much more aware of how badly I still receive. As a result, I have modified my behaviour and attitude in quite a few ways, indeed I have. I don't often pray, "God, I need this one thing," but I say, "God, what are you offering me today?" I consciously try to accept and embrace prayers, gifts, help, and true words from others and from God. I say, "I receive," a lot to remind myself not to be so self-reliant. So on Sunday morning when I was asking God what to speak on that night, I was surprised when the receiving thing came up again. I get it, really I do, so why is he still on this topic? I guess I still have things to learn. Here is some of what I brought on Sunday night to my friends.
Some basics about receiving things that God brings my way:
1. Receiving is not passivity, self-centredness, nor accepting everything people offer me. It is not becoming a yes-man (or woman) without discernment.
2. Receiving is not bartering or trading or making an even deal. It is just receiving.
3. It is not becoming a taker instead of a giver. It is getting these two things in the right perspective and order (see the example of Mary and Martha in Luke 10).
4. God ALWAYS has something to give.
5. Until I have the spirit of God living and moving in me like Jesus did, I have a lot more receiving to do.
6. We tend to think of learning in terms of completion instead of maturing (yep, took that course on love, got it down). Maturing happens every moment of every day.
Jesus pointed out that the goal is not to overcome evil and do good. The focus is on God and what he brings to our lives and to the world. "The great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God's authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you - that's the agenda for rejoicing. (Matthew 10:19-20 in The Message).
Here are some obstacles to being a good receiver (think football):
1. Being out of position. We must be willing to move, to keep our eye on the ball, to run hard if we have to.
2. Expecting or asking for inappropriate things. "Toss me the guitar!"
3. Something blocks our line of sight or stops the ball from getting to us (interception). This could be: fear, worry, control, self-reliance, self-absorption, and an unwillingness to leave our safety zone. But we really cannot score if we never leave our own zone.
If I think I am a good receiver, I just have to ask myself: do I have enough? Do I have enough love in my life? Enough authority over evil, sickness and death? Do I have enough peace in all circumstances? Do I have enough faith that nothing is impossible with God? Do I have enough comfort and hope in tough times? Do I have enough joy and patience in my everyday life? Do we have enough hope for the future? Do we have enough power and strength to change the things that need to be changed? If we don't, then we need to learn to be better receivers.
Football players practise every day; they work hard to become good receivers and do things that the rest of us only marvel at. Click here for some inspirational football stunts. We can become good receivers, but it means changing how we think, act, and position ourselves.
What is God offering me today? Am I in a position to receive it? Is anything blocking me from receiving it? I receive. God help my un-receiving heart.
This is a football practice in St. Catherines, Ontario. Go team!
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Here is my first cooking show, where a fabulous new recipe that I invented a few weeks ago is revealed. Please be aware that this video may cause your stomach to make strange noises.
No animals were harmed in the making of this video, but several corn chips were crushed beyond recognition.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
This past week I have had to receive more than usual. It is good for me. I always want to be willing to take what God is bringing my way. I have also seen that I get things mixed up sometimes. I am reckless where I should be careful, and I am careful where I should be reckless. I am reckless in areas where I think I know what I am doing. I am reckless when everyone else is doing something and I feel I should be able to do it as well (like play soccer with an injured muscle). I am reckless when I do not consider the value or cost to myself or another person. Mostly, I am reckless when I trust myself.
I am careful when dealing with God. I want to do the right thing and I think he is hard to please, so I hesitate. I am uncomfortable with what he is asking me, so I modify and compensate. I am unsure of what he is asking of me, it all sounds too crazy, so I rationalise and compare instead of act. I want to walk on the water when he calls my name, but there are so many things to consider first. One must be careful with these decisions, right? Very often, I am careful when it comes to trusting God, which just means that I don't. Consider the parable where the one servant buries his gift because he doesn't want to disappoint anyone. Bad idea.
See how these things are mixed up? I need to be more reckless when it comes to trusting God, and more careful when it comes to trusting myself. I need to just jump in and do what I see Jesus doing, to try to walk on the water, to try to heal people, to try to tell people the amazing truth, and to try to love outside of my safety fence. I need not to rely on my own abilities and experience and knowledge as if they were foolproof methods for making wise decisions and having things work out well.
Let recklessness and carefulness find their proper place in my life.
This a staircase beside the Welland Canal.
Friday, July 03, 2009
While this week has thrown quite a few challenges my way, it has also laid the table for a feast of good fruit in my life - an opportunity to chew on valuable virtues that I really had not taken the time to digest properly.
1. Receive. While I sat on the couch with my leg up and a frozen bag of peas on my strained muscle, my group of Canada Day guests prepared a delicious meal for each other, tidied the kitchen, and managed the party all very nicely without my help. Who would have thought that I didn't need to do it all myself and could actually embrace and receive help when offered? I am not nearly so good at this as I thought. How much goodness do I unintentionally deflect when it comes my way? More than I care to acknowledge.
2. Gratefulness. Being thankful attacks discouragement at the root and undermines deceptive and destructive negative thoughts before they begin. But it takes practise. Practise. Practise. So I have had lots of opportunity to do that this week.
3. Relax. Not everything needs to be done according to my specifications within the time frame I think is preferable and have the outcome I envisioned. In fact, not a whole lot of life will fit into those silly criteria. Instead, let me: Hope. Trust. Love. Life within these 3 dimensions is what I am really shooting for, so I want to learn to resist the temptation to force life towards a certain predetermined goal and instead, lean into the strong wind of Love and let it move me.
4. Tasks are not more important than people.
5. Rest is just as important as work.
6. Ask God before spending a lot of time developing my own plan. It saves time and energy and produces better results in me and in my situations.
7. Be patient with mobility-challenged people and slowness of any kind. People have enough challenges to face without some impatient person on their tail.
8. Walking is one of the most incredible gifts God ever gave.
This is the Niagara Falls, the American side, where I hobbled this afternoon with good friends.