Bucket List v.2

I made a bucket list back in September 2012, which was just after I moved to my current home, and about a year before I moved to China to work for two years. It heralded a time when I wanted to try new things and embrace life for all it was worth. Here is that list copied here, with a bunch of things crossed off… a very exciting discovery for an afternoon on January 29th, 2017.

A growing list of things that would be cool to do before I die, but don’t desperately need to be done.

  1. Ride in a hot air balloon.
  2. Go horseback riding. (At a fair gallop.) SPRING 2015
  3. Spelunking. MAY 2013, DEC 2014
  4. Ziplining.
  5. Surfing.
  6. Scuba diving.
  7. Skydiving.
  8. Read The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
  9. Sew and make a bag or a piece of clothing.
  10. Knit something.
  11. Learn martial arts, preferably Wing Chun. AUG 2015 – ?
  12. Learn to play guzheng. Own a guzheng. (Chinese zither)
  13. See the Aurora Borealis. (Northern Lights)
  14. Shoot firearms. FEB 2013 (a semi-automatic pistol and a revolver) JULY 2013 (a Chinese military surplus 1960s rifle)
  15. Go to Europe: England, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Sweden SUMMER 2017
  16. Go to Subsaharan Africa and see safari animals.
  17. Climb one or more of the following mountains: Kilimanjaro, Fuji, Matterhorn JULY 2017, Logan, Jiu Hua Shan, Tai Shan, E Mei Shan, Doi Chiang Dao DEC 2014 Huang Shan JULY 2015

Additionally, I also…

  1. Made my own jam JULY 2012
  2. Was in a wedding AUG 2012
  3. Drove a right-side steering car in Japan DEC 2012
  4. Welcomed a puppy into my life JAN 2013
  5. Ran the Tough Mudder MAY 2013
  6. Lived in Hangzhou, China JUL 2013-2015
  7. Travelled to these places in while away: Hefei, Wuzhen, North of Indonesia, Shanghai, Bangkok, Dali/Yunnan, Suzhou, Nanjing, Tongzhou, Winnipeg, Riding Mountain Ntl. Park, Maxville for the Glengarry Highland Games, Xi’an, Jiuzhaigou/Sichuan, Chengdu, Chiang Mai, Lijiang, Shangri-La, Lhasa/Tibet.

So that’s exciting. Except that I didn’t really do much new in 2016 beyond continuing with the Wing Chun classes.

Sometimes we try really hard to do new things, and sometimes we don’t even realize all the other great stuff that is happening right under our noses. May we be ever more aware.


The Scoreboard of Life

This is ultimately not about the World Cup happening right now this beautiful 2014, but the title was inspired by it being that I think scoring goals in soccer / football is not just due to skill and teamwork but also a matter of psychology. You know when you are so sure that a certain team is not going to catch up after losing a goal? I don’t think it’s purely thanks to skill and teamwork, but also the momentum of morale at that point.

Anyways, these are actually thoughts about living faith and the psychology behind it that I got from some insights about the psychology of learning.

Carol S. Dweck speaks about the psychology of learning in education, and has an acclaimed book entitled Mindset. This is my transcript from the first part (the first 2.5 minutes) of a talk she gave on the subject, entitled How to Help Every Child Fulfil Their Potential:

Here’s that talk:

  • [Picture of a happy baby.] We all come like this: infinitely curious, always experimenting, always learning, and addressing the most difficult tasks of a lifetime with tremendous gusto. You never see an unmotivated baby. [Picture of a bored, smoking baby ‘bum’, face propped by up a hand.] Nooo. And yet, just a few years later, you start seeing lots of kids who look as turned off as that baby. [Picture of a young student in a pose like the baby, minus the cigarette.] Not so different from the baby.
  • But what we have now discovered is that mindsets are at the heart of this kind of problem. Mindsets that make kids afraid to try, and make them easily derailed by setbacks. But what’s important is that we are also discovering why this happens, and what to do about it.
  • In my work, we find that some students have a fixed mindset about their intellectual abilities and talents. They think intelligence is just a fixed trait: you have a certain amount and that’s that. This is the mindset that makes kids afraid to try, because they’re afraid to look dumb.
  • But other students have a growth mindset. They believe that intelligence can be developed through their effort, dedication, learning, and mentorship from others. They don’t think that everyone’s the same, or that anyone can be Einstein, but they understand that even Einstein wasn’t the guy he became before he put in years and years of dedicated labour.

It’s a great talk on its own, but being the distracted listener that I am whenever someone gives an informative talk, I started to draw the parallels between a mindset about intelligence with a Christian walk and the mindset about faith:

  • Babies are born with an openness and willingness to know God, and most children too. After some years, you get teens who become doubtful, skeptical, or legalistic, and they can grow into adults who are even more so.
  • Our mindset about faith and its cultivation at the heart of this problem. Certain mindsets make us afraid to trust God and easily derailed by setbacks. As such, we do not live freely.
  • Some Christians have a fixed mindset. This could be because they see ‘faith’ as a binary of believing or not believing, so you either have it or don’t have it. God chose you and that’s that, so we have no obligation to do more. This could also be because they see faith associated with ‘legitimate’ activities showing the abundance of your faith: working in ministry, being a missionary, successfully making lots of money (to tithe though, you know), being married, being a mom/dad… This mindset makes Christians narrow-minded and focused on the Scoreboard of Life. If they are hitting certain checkboxes they are on track as Christians, and easily satisfied by things other than God and God’s plans. If they fail in that work or lose that role, they do not know their purpose or value, and this can cause them to be embittered with God. They are afraid of change, because it takes away the confidence of faith they’ve built up in their chosen check points.
  • But other Christians  have a growth mindset. They believe that faith can be developed through their effort, dedication, learning, and mentorship from others. It’s not that they think everyone can save themselves through those efforts, but they know that after God has set us aside and saved us, we must respond by taking personal steps of faith, and not just to meet a set of standard criteria set by societal norms or even church norms. They understand that even the greatest men and women of faith put in years and years of dedicated labour, and even Jesus as a child made an effort to learn and know God’s Word well. They understand that faith is a constant development and that there is no plateau to reach and no stagnancy in what God expects of us. We are not to look constantly at a Scoreboard of Life on which we decide how successful or unsuccessful we are being as Christians personally, but we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter of our faith, not to grow weary with sin or prideful with success. They understand that being too occupied with the things of this world that can be seen is not the best that God intends for us, and they hold things and people loosely before God, despite loving them deeply.

Alright, I don’t know if my theology is completely straight with every word there, and I know for sure there are other good parallels I am not drawing, but I think the general outline compares well. Am I fixing my eyes on the Scoreboard of Life (I have a job, I’m witnessing to co-workers, I have a Christian husband, I have a beautiful family, I have smart well-adjusted kids…) or am I fixing my eyes on Jesus, counsellor for the one who gives and takes away?

To go further, Carol Dweck lists 3 worlds in which the mindset about intelligence works:

  1. Goals
    1. Fixed mindset: look smart at all costs
    2. Growth mindset: learn at all costs
  2. Effort
    1. Fixed mindset: it should come naturally; if you have the ability you don’t need effort
    2. Growth mindset: work hard, because effort is key
  3. Setbacks
    1. Fixed mindset: hide mistakes and deficiencies
    2. Growth mindset: capitalise on mistakes and confront deficiencies

I can see this translated too for faith:

  1. Goals
    1. Fixed mindset: look smart faithful at all costs
    2. Growth mindset: learn develop faith at all costs
  2. Effort
    1. Fixed mindset: it should come naturally; if you have the ability faith you don’t need effort works
    2. Growth mindset: work hard, because effort actively trusting God in everyday things is key
  3. Setbacks
    1. Fixed mindset: hide mistakes sin and deficiencies
    2. Growth mindset: capitalise on mistakes and boast in deficiencies and confront deficiencies sin


Faithlessness, or why I need friends

This is one reason why it’s good to have friends. While I fall into self-pity, coping mechanisms, and do-it-yourself reliance when what I need is to rest my mind in the stability of God’s word, when I want to encourage my friends, I often turn to biblical encouragement. I’m too lazy to give myself the good stuff, but you can’t just give other people crap. In the meantime, this conveniently nourishes my own soul. While I am still faithless like this, it is good to have friends.


Then and Now: King David

I am studying 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, and the Psalms with some friends according to the projected chronological order of the chapters, and it has provided some opportunity to dwell on King David’s life a bit more.

Then: David’s enemies of war from surrounding tribes and nations and within his household (e.g. Absalom).

Now: Few of those in the Western world  have many personal political enemies but we do have family members or co-workers, or others we don’t get along with.

Now: Sometimes our enemies are the ruts of thought we get into, our emotions, and our habits of mind. Depression consumes us, or hopelessness, or lust, or anger, or envy, or obsession.


Then: David ogles Bathsheba and commits adultery with her.

Now: People ogle others in pornography, or even on billboards (those get quite pornographic these days), people commit adultery with themselves in masturbation, and people still commit adultery with other people they are not married to.


Then: David kills Goliath the giant when he taunts Israel and disrespects God.

Now: We remember this story and tell it to children in Sunday school all the time. It’s a good one alright!


Then: Another man, kills Goliath’s brother Lahmi (whom we can only assume to be almost as big as Goliath by the description of the weapon he used). David’s nephew kills another giant with polydactyly (6 digits on each hand and foot) when said giant taunts Israel. Yet another man, Sibbecai, kills a Philistine giant in war. Famous people and not so famous people often do similar things, but some are less recognized than others.

Now: We still mostly remember the giants of old and the giants of today, skipping out on the recognition of normal people doing extraordinary things. Not everyone gets a book written about them, and many have just a line or two of recognition somewhere, but there are still commendable and significant things happening with otherwise “insignificant” people.

What people have been reading here

Early this month, WordPress sent me a summary of my blogging year in 2010. This included mention of the most read posts, which got me looking at the most read posts of all time. Here is the top of the list for your interest. (I mean, these must have some substance to them even if not everything I post may be worth reading.)

Title Views
Home page 2,813
The Pulley (by George Herbert) 1,268
“Twitterpated” (Bambi, 1942) 93
What is this? 84
“as long as she remained inaccessible, he could remain constant” 38
King Lear and God 27
On love poetry 25
Awkwardness 18
Bible Reading Plan 16
MRS Degree: an honours designation 15
“quote” 14
Walking in the light [Isaiah 2] 12
Hubris 11
I still don’t understand what I am do to 11
an assortment of ideas 11
On Singleness 11
“One is not born a woman” 10
How difficult it is to be saved! [Isaiah 1] 10
Innovative redesign of reclining seats on Cathay Pacific planes (a.k.a. Christmas is about Christ Jesus) 10

As you can see, the little piece I wrote on George Herbert’s poem The Pulley has singlehandedly skewed the number of times this quaint little blog is actually read by strangers. English literature is a wonderful thing.