Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pointless Post #83 - Salad Rant Edition

Salads are inefficient, messy, and overrated.  Often times, restaurants/stores can make great margins on salads ( much for a plate? What?! I can buy three heads of lettuce for the same amount!).

I hate eating salad where the greens are not chopped up bite-size enough and so as I try to fork a bite, the leaves end up brushing dressing over half of my face before I'm able to stuff it into my mouth. 

Coleslaw on the other hand is very efficient, but from my eating experience, is not as tasty.

I was at a barbecue a few weeks ago where someone had brought a salad and I remember there were bits of mango, walnuts, some sort of cheese, and the dressing was light and sweet and it was soooooooo good.  I went back for seconds.  For a salad.  AT A BARBECUE.  That's how good it was.  And the mixed roughage was bite-size! 8^D

Apple fritter.  This is a win-win.  Saying it is fun because it rolls off the tongue and the name itself sounds great, but it's also delicious and satisfying.  Yum.

Here's two new Spider-Man pictures, one which features the Lions Gate Bridge:

Spider-Man showcases the Lions Gate Bridge
Spider-Man on a crabbing/fishing pier in West Vancouver

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Working Through the Pain of 9/11

Exactly one year ago, September 11, 2011, I went on a long bike ride after church and stopped at the edge of a river to take a break before returning back home again. It had been super sunny the week before, so it was actually more of a stream than a river.  A lot of the river bank was dry and exposed, kind of like this:

As I sat on an old stump to catch my breath, I looked down at the rocks all around me. I threw a few into the water to watch them splash. I also picked up some of the stones to look at them closely. I put two of them into my pocket and brought them home because they made me think.

I did a lot of reflection the days leading up to September 11, 2011, mostly because it was all over the news that it was the ten year anniversary.  Today marks eleven years.  We usually use the word "anniversary" when we want to look back and celebrate a memorable event.  Perhaps its better to call it a day of remembrance.  I remember watching a lot of documentaries because they were really riveting and eye-opening. One in particular, 9/11 State of Emergency, lets you pick the brains of "former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Acting Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card," (from CBC's The Passionate Eye). There are also conversations with "Deena Burnett and Alice Hoglan, family members of passengers onboard Flight 93 who were able to speak to their loved ones" before they died.  This is a good one to watch if you want the perspectives of people who were making critical decisions behind the scenes, moments after the frightful crashes. Same with George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview.

Ten and eleven years later, what happened on 9/11 is much more meaningful and poignant to me. I was a pretty shallow kid when everything happened in 2001 and I was deeply saddened when I saw all the images on TV, but I didn’t really think about the victims. They were just faceless names to me. Only now I realize that there were real people on those four airplanes. There were real people inside the buildings and on the streets; real people with families. They each had their own concerns, problems, hopes, dreams, desires and loved ones they cared about. It seemed like the start of a typical morning day. Then poof, the world changed.  Watching 9/11 and the American Dream, helped drive that realization home for me. The documentary and stories in that made me start to tear up a few times.  I also teared up watching the memorial ceremony at whats now known as the National September 11 Memorial & Museum that was held at Ground Zero.

As Canadians, I can speculate that a few of us (and I hope that it is very few) might not see a real need to take the time to reflect on 9/11, because it wasn’t us, but the US. And because of that, I think that perhaps the average Canadian, or even younger generations of Canadians, are unable to completely relate to the average American’s feelings of fear and loss over what happened. We make some adjustments and life goes on right?

No.  That is foolish thinking.

Across this North American landscape, other than a border, different histories, and a myriad of other things, we’re the same people. We speak the same language (more or less), we consume the same things, and we depend on one another. And despite the number of lives lost and people affected, this can’t be compared to a natural disaster. This was an attack. On 9/11, human beings made in the image of God, killed other human beings. Death certificates given to families of the victims from 9/11 stated the reason of death was caused by homicide.  Take a moment to digest that.

Anything on a large scale makes us see things differently forever. Sporting events are never the same. Just about any event with a large crowd makes one think twice about “security.” If something as horrible as this can happen in America, then it can happen anywhere. And it has, as we’ve seen it in places like Bali, Madrid, London, Mumbai, and Oslo. The bad things we see on TV all the time usually happen in far away places, but 9/11 hit the North American home front, in a highly populated urban setting. And especially right smack downtown. It will absolutely rock your sense of security.  Going through customs at an airport is practically an event in itself now.  None of what I’m saying is new.

Can you imagine seeing the building where a loved one worked fall down on itself and then not knowing what happened to that person? I think one statistic I heard said that 40% of victims from September 11th have never been recovered. They simply vanished, into a wave of dark smoke, dust, and a shower of scattered papers. It’s hard not to tear up when watching old news clips with crowds of people holding up pictures of someone they’re looking for or walls with signs overlapping each other, “MISSING, please call...” or “Missing and dearly loved, 1-718-823-xxxx,” and “Missing at the WTC, Height: 5’7” Weight: 160lbs," etc. It was hard not to tear up seeing family members touch the name of their loved one and burst out crying at the reflecting pools (the towers’ “foot prints”) ten years later.

So when something incredibly tragic and life altering like this happens, then what?  What will we do? What can we do?  We will cry for our dead. We will mourn for what we have lost. We will mourn with our fellow brothers and sisters, even if they are just a crying face on the news, not knowing that you exist and that you’re crying with them. I can imagine Jesus cried on September 11, 2001. He cried when Lazarus died, and He cried over Jerusalem when He foresaw the city’s destruction in Luke 19:41. How much did the events on 9/11 grieve God, or any other event for that matter, where senseless deaths of innocent lives took place? And even now as Syria is in a state of civil war?

It’s ok to mourn, to remember, and celebrate life. It means we’re human and still have feelings inside, even if what happened was ten, twenty, or fifty years ago. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Sometimes that comfort comes in time passing. But sometimes it’s still too painful to think about and my heart is burdened for those people who haven’t found comfort yet. I received Isaiah 61:3 (NIV) from The Daily Bible Verse in my inbox on 9/11, which read:
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

That is a beautiful picture, and that is the God we worship. He won’t leave us alone in our misery. He’s promised us hope and better days ahead. How I wish those crying faces I see could see hear this verse and take comfort in those words, but more importantly, for them to take peace in the God who cried with them when they were hurting, but now gently places His hand under them to lift up their head, and looks into their eyes with promise and tells them that they don't need to weep and mourn forever.  There is hope.

Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) reads, "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive."

In our context, we could read that verse as saying, "For what terrorists meant for fear, destruction, and calamity, God can heal and bring about good, which can ultimately help someone."  In Genesis, Joseph was despised by his brothers when he was a youth and sold into slavery.  Through a series of providential, mystical, and miraculous events, Joseph became the prime minister of ancient Egypt and was in charge of the region's food supply during a severe famine.  His brothers travelled far to find food for their families, not knowing that who they were begging from was their long lost brother whom over time they thought was dead.  In the end, Joseph was able to move his family down into Egypt and sustain them, when he spoke those words in Gen 50:20 to the very brothers that had gotten rid of him in the first place.

For Joseph, the evil that he experienced as a boy only became good after he grew up, years and years later.  It was only after starting a job, getting married, having kids, and then some, was he able to see how God used his miserable, hurtful, and even depressing experience into something greater which was to save his family from starving to death.

But you might argue with me that 9/11 is completely different.  How can I look on the "bright side" when I'm still filled with remorse at the missed opportunities I had to spend time with my mother and I didn't?  Or maybe I'm still angry at the hijackers who cut my father's life short by slamming that plane into his office?  Or what if I'm still sad that my sister was murdered that day and I knew she had so much potential?  Or I'm filled with self-pity because my brother and best friend was taken away from me, and now I'm alone and have no one to share those meaningful experiences I once shared with?  How do I carry on, knowing they're dead?  Why must this pain and loss persist, this aching in the depths of my heart and dropping of my stomach that makes me feel empty inside?

There's no easy answer.

These are the rocks that I put in my pocket after I had finished my bike ride last year.  They've been sitting on my desk ever since:

The one on the left is made up of jagged edges, while the one on the right is rounded and smooth to the touch.  At one point, the rock on the right was once like the rock on the left.  But over time, it had been tumbling down the river, pushed along by the forces of the water, hitting other rocks along the bottom of the river again and again until it's rough notches were worn down and became a little more polished.  From something rugged and ugly into something more pleasing to the eye and slightly more beautiful.  But how long did it take?  How long will it take for God to take my bad experience and make it into something that I can look back on and say that everything worked out for the better?  The jagged rock didn't tumble down the river and become smooth in a week.  It took a long time.  Like Joseph, it might be years and years later before we understand and accept why something happened.  Over time, the pain and grief that's been engraved in us can be worn down and polished into something slightly more beautiful, and more meaningful.

I was reminded of Colossians 3:2 on Sunday: "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."

There is a time for mourning and remembrance in honour of who we grieve for, but eventually we have to begin to let go of the pain and the loss.  We set our minds on the promises that God has given us, that He will exchange us beauty, joy, and praise, for our ashes, mourning, and despair.  We have a defined hope that our bad will be turned to good, so that we can be an oak of righteousness so that next time, we can help someone work through their tough situation or to work through their grief as we once did.

It won't be easy, it will take an indefinite amount of time, but there is a guaranteed conclusion.

The things of the earth are full of hurt and destined for the grave, but the things from above are abundant in healing, love, and life.  When tragedy strikes and people die, we can cry and be sad because it's the right thing to do.  But we also remember that our lives are short, like a vapor, and we live on so that we can make the most of what we've been given.  The beautiful thing about life is that it doesn't stop, but even if mine does, thanks to Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, our lives can also keep going on in eternity.  Our lives are precious to God and He desires us to keep living.  This is the hope that He's given to us.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bits and pieces

I went to Five Guys again and added new pictures to an older post (the pictures look delicious).

I did laundry.

My dog likes to nap.

Have you ever seen an unattractive magician/illusionist lacking in self-confidence? Me neither.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Pointless Post #82 - War Games Edition

Text message received at 7:15pm: are you going to the gun fight? 

[Two laters hour]

* pew pew pew pew pew*

Me: Aaaaaagh! You shot me again!

The pattering of feet, flashing lights, and mindless laughter continue into the darkness of the night in the residential Vancouver neighbourhood.

Basically, seven grown men in their 20s and 30s were running around an elementary school playground playing laser tag for more than two hours. It’s called Light Strike and it’s proof that you don’t need alcohol or drugs to have a good time. Ironically, a couple walking by on the sidewalk came over to talk to us about our very manly and serious war games. I thought it was because they were nerdy and liked laser tag. It turns out they were just high on mushrooms and the colourful lights attracted them. They stayed and played two rounds with us. All in good fun! And they were high! 

And we DEFINITELY had more fun than the group of teenagers who were also on the school grounds, drinking beer and smoking weed. I saw the look of boredom and envy on their faces as we ran by them, while I shot my laser gun in pursuit of the Red Team. I was on the Blue Team.

Amazingly no one called the police on our silly antics! Until next time!

Gas has been in the 132-137.9¢/litre range for the past week weeks but today I saw a low of 129.9 and a high of 135.6¢/litre.