Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

Published on Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Permission to let go

 “All the leaves have gone,” sang The Mamas and the Papas in their short but brilliant musical career. 

            Their words come to mind as I look out my office window. Joan and I planted a Japanese red maple out there, 20 years ago. All its leaves have gone. 

            Except for two lonely twigs that still have bright red leaves clinging to their tips. The twigs lash about in winter winds. But those last leaves won’t let go.

            An internet ministry circulated a story about a woman expecting to die in a hospital ward. She could see, out the hospital window, one lonely leaf clinging to a vine on a plastered wall. “When that leaf falls off,” she told her wardmates, “I will die.”

            But the leaf didn’t fall off. When spring came, new leaves grew. And the woman recovered, and went home. 

            But the man in another bed in her ward died of the pneumonia he contracted the winter night that he sneaked outside and painted a leaf onto the plastered wall. 

 

Possible reactions

            I don’t know how to respond to that story. 

            Should I admire the sacrifice made by the man, to keep another patient’s hopes alive?

            Should I protest that surely his life was worth just as much as hers?

            Should I pontificate about the placebo effect that beliefs can have, even when mistaken?

            Should I compare the story to Jesus on the Cross, and use it to justify theological theories of Substitutionary Atonement?

            In our rural community, Anne Land died recently at the age of 104. Pat McCoubrey, 100, another dearly loved member of the community, rests in a hospice. Only a few leaves still cling to the twigs on Pat’s tree of life. 

 

The greatest miracle

            Life.

            Life is an amazing thing, when I take time to think about it. 

            A dog, fatally crushed by a passing car, still wags its tail for the weeping boy it belongs to.

            A tiny sparrow drags its injured mate off the road, even though there’s no hope.

            Even a primitive amoeba will avoid things that imperil it. Biologists have pretty much agreed that all life started with a single cell like an amoeba, from which every living creature has descended. 

            Sometimes the struggle for life leads us to be nasty, brutish, and ruthless. Sometimes the struggle for life leads us to sacrifice ourselves, for the sake of others.

            And sometimes people hang on, and hang on… because life itself will not give up, will not let go.

            I’ve been with only two people in their final hours. As I’ve noted before, I felt impelled to say a short prayer – in a sense, giving them permission to die.  It was spontaneous, unscripted, but it went something like this: “Dear God, this is (name). You’ve known him all his life. We don’t want to lose him, but we can’t do anything more for him. So now we hand him over to you. Take care of him. For his sake, and for ours. Amen.”

            Whether or not the prayer had anything to do with it, both died not long after. Apparently in peace. 

            Perhaps I should go outside and say a prayer for the last leaves on my maple tree. So that they can let go too.

*****************************************

Copyright © 2018 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.

                  To comment on this column, write jimt@quixotic.ca

*****************************************

 

YOUR TURN

 

Lots of letters about choirs as a model for community. Enuff ado, let’s get on with them. 

 

James Henderschedt called the column, “truly inspired and inspiring. Betty and I live in a continuing care ‘community’ in which I see [your thesis] being played out regularly. There are times when we do come together as a community (Fellowship Community is the name). Other times, however we are a group of people merely living in close proximity. And there are times when we force the issue. An example of that would be trying to set up a ‘buddy’ system in which neighbors check on neighbors to see if all is well. Not an easy task at all. I am going to find a way to share today's Soft Edges. It sure speaks to our situation.”

 

Tom Watson agreed with me: “The choir that sings well together is a good example of community. It requires that all would-be soloists put their personal abilities, egos, and capabilities aside for the good of the whole. I have sung in numerous choral groups over the years and found that some formed a community while others didn't. Where it happens most frequently is in barbershop singing groups -- they sing a capella so, having no lead instrument to guide them, they have to listen to each other. Listening to each other is a key to the formation of good community in any sense.”

 

Bob Rollwagen made a fine point: “A community does not need to have every member participating. I have been on a team, in a choir, lived on a crescent in a small town, and had work experiences that felt like community. In each instance, I chose my level of commitment as did others. It was obvious who was in the deepest and who liked being on the fringe. This is the nature of community. Some impact others and some barely survive. [Community] was once only when people gathered together physically. Technology now allows it to happen electronically.”

 

Wayne Irwin quoted the children’s song, “All God’s critters got a place in the choir...”

 

Eduard Hiebert mused on Marg Kyle’s invitation to me, “Fascinating how one small encounter can be the spark such a long-term community involvement.”

 

Ruth Shaver celebrated music: “As a pastor, my time of worship each Sunday morning -- guaranteed, that is, around whatever else the liturgy and sermon provides -- is singing in the choir. Or, when the bell choir plays, ringing my bells with joy. I've never pastored a church that didn't sing well as a congregation and I don't think I would be happy in one that was lackluster in its singing. There's just so much that happens when we make a joyful noise together!”

            Capitalizing on Ruth’s last line, may I recommend Linnea Good’s lively musical rendering of Psalm 100, “Make a Joyful Noise” in The Good Book I. You can order it through her website, https://www.linneagood.com/copy-of--music-c1ozs

 

Frank Martens, my resident atheist, has not found community in the church – neither in the Mennonite church he grew up in, nor in other denominations. “My relation with church members (you are an exception 😊) has nearly always been negative,” he wrote. “They seem to be self-absorbed, cocooned in their own tight little world of self-righteousness. And, it really doesn’t seem to matter what their denomination is. I must confess, however, that I don’t really go out of my way to get to know them either, although we are acquaintances with some church-going couples. Ah, well…”

 

And finally, Steve Roney challenged my thesis that we seek to transcend the loneliness of individuality by becoming community: “In this column you have hit upon the essential difference between the modern North American left and right. To a leftist, this sense of losing the individual in community sounds like a self-evident good. After all, it transcends ‘selfishness.’ So it partakes of the divine. The group is divine.

            “But any rightist reads that sentence with horror, and thinks of the Nazi Nuremberg rallies or the North Korean mass choreographed displays in sports stadia. Community is the danger; individualism is what partakes of the divine.”

            Steve then wrote extensively on his view. Because I disagree with everything he said, I’m not printing the whole letter, but his theme seems to me to be summarized in this sentence: “Individualism means taking personal responsibility. If you surrender that moral responsibility to a community, and defer to their judgement, you are waiving any ability to act morally.”

 

Several of you had technical problems reading last week’s column, it seems. Jim Vickers wrote, “It doesn’t matter how I expand the window, the text always goes beyond the borders requiring me to scroll left and right.” 

            Hugh Pett had run across this in other circumstances, and suggested an alternative way of pasting your comments into this space. Let’s see if it works. 

 

*******************************************

 

PSALM PARAPHRASE

 

The psalm reading for this coming Sunday isn’t a psalm, but Zechariah’s song of praise at a) having a son in his old age, who would become John the Baptist, and b) regaining his speech. When I check my files, I find I have never written a paraphrase of this passage, and today I don’t feel like writing one. 

            So no paraphrase this week. 

            But… For paraphrases of mostof the psalms used by the Revised Common Lectionary, you can order my book Everyday Psalmsfrom Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com.

 

*******************************************

 

TECHNICAL STUFF

 

If you want to comment on something, send a message directly to me, jimt@quixotic.ca.

                  To subscribe or unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to jimt@quixotic.ca. Or you can subscribe electronically by sending a blank e-mail (no message or subject line) to softedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca. Similarly, you can un-subscribe at softedges-unsubscribe@lists.quixotic.ca.

                  I write a second column each Sunday called Sharp Edges, which tends to be somewhat more cutting about social and justice issues. To sign up for Sharp Edges, write to me directly, jimt@quixotic.ca, or send a note to sharpedges-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca

                  And for those of you who like poetry, I’ve started a webpage http://quixotic.ca/My-Poetry where I post (occasionally, when I feel inspired) poems that I have written. If you’d like to receive notifications about new poems, write me at jimt@quixotic.ca,  or subscribe yourself to the list by sending a blank email(no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)

 

********************************************

 

PROMOTION STUFF

 

To use the links in this section, you’ll have to insert the necessary symbols. Some spam filters have been blocking my posts because they’re suspicious of too many links.

                  Ralph Milton’s latest project is a kind of Festival of Faith, a retelling of key biblical stories by skilled storytellers like Linnea Good and Donald Schmidt, designed to get people talking about their own faith experience. It’s a series of videos available on Youtube. I suggest you start with his introductory section: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7u6qRclYAa8

                  Ralph’s “Sing Hallelujah” -- the world’s first video hymnal -- is still available. It consists of 100 popular hymns, both new and old, on five DVDs that can be played using a standard DVD player and TV screen, for use in congregations who lack skilled musicians to play piano or organ. More details at wwwDOTsinghallelujahDOTca

                  Wayne Irwin's “Churchweb Canada,” an inexpensive service for any congregation wanting to develop a web presence, with free consultation. <http://wwwDOTchurchwebcanadaDOTca>

                  I recommend Isabel Gibson’s thoughtful and well-written blog, wwwDOTtraditionaliconoclastDOTcom

                  Alva Wood’s satiric stories about incompetent bureaucrats and prejudiced attitudes in a small town -- not particularly religious, but fun; alvawoodATgmailDOTcom to get onto her mailing list.

                  Tom Watson writes a weekly blog called “The View from Grandpa Tom’s Balcony” -- ruminations on various subjects, and feedback from Tom’sreaders. Write him at tomwatsoATgmailDOTcom or twatsonATsentexDOTnet

 

 

 

 

 


Comments (0)Number of views (18)

Author: Jim Taylor

Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: life, death, autumn, leaves, atonement

Print

Tags

#MeToo 150th birthday 1954 1972 3G abduction abortion Abrams abuse addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix affirmative action aging Ahriman Ahura Mazda airport killings albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations Almighty Almighty God ALS alt-right altruism Amherst Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anniversaries antidote Ants aphrodisiac App Store Archives armistice artifacts astronomy atonement atropine Attawapiscat attraction audits authorities autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry baby Bach baggage Bahai Banda banning books Barabbas barbers Bashar al Assad BC BC Conference Beans bears Beethoven beginnings behaviour belief systems beliefs benefits Bernardo Bible biblical sex birth birthday birthdays Blackmore blood blood donors body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women bombings books border patrol both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brains Brazil breath breathe broken bubbles Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats Canute caregivers caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cats cave CBC Cecil the lion. Zanda CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christian Christianity Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas gathering church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés cliffhanger climate change clocks close votes coastal tribes coffee collaboration colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty communication Communion community complexity composers conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues Confirmation confusion Congo Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent Conservative Party contraception Conversations coral Cornwallis Cosby Cougars courtesy courts CPP CRA creation creche Creston crime criminal crucifixion Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Dan Rather Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Suzuki dead zone deaf death decision Delhi Dementia democracy denial Denny's Depression Descartes despair determinism Devin Kelley dinosaurs dissent diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Donald Trump Donna Sinclair Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs dying Dylan Thomas Earth Day Easter Ebola eclipse economics Eden editing Edwards-Sawatzky Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or email embassy emergent emotions English epiphany epitaph Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy evacuation evacuation orders Eve Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played evil Evolution expectations experiment extinctions extremes extremism eye for an eye Eyes Facebook faith False Creek fascist fear Fedex feel Fentanyl figure skating Fire fireball fires First Nations flirting flooding floods floppy disks flow charts flowers fluency flying Folk sayings forensic Forest fires forests forgiving Four Pests campaign franchises free free speech free will freedom friend friendships fruit fundamentalism future Gaia games Garrison Keillor Geese Gerald Stanley Gerard Manley Hopkins Ghomeshi girls global economy global warming go north God gods Golden Rule good good intentions goodness Google Play government Governor General grammar gravity Great Barrier Reef greatest story green Green Eggs Green Party Gretta Vosper Grinch Group of seven growth guilt guns Habits haircuts Haiti Hal Niedzviecki harassment Harjit Sajjan harmony Hawaii health health plans hearing hearts heat heaven Hell helping heroes heroin Higher Porpoise highway Hillary Clinton Hinduism history Homulka Honduras honesty hope Horgan Horton hospitality houseflies houses human rights hurricane ICBMs ice dance identity IMF imitation immigrants immortality immuno-globulin inclusive language income taxes independence India individualism inertia Infinity injustice intelligence intervention IPCC irreverence Isaac Watts ISIS Islam Jack McCarthy Jagmeet Singh James Shaw Jr. Jean Piaget Jebusites Jeff Sessions Jerusalem Jessica Farrar Jessie Oliver Jesus John A MacDonald Johnny Mercer joining Jonathan Haidt Jonathan Kay Joni Mitchell Jordan Peterson Joseph judgement judges Julie Payette jury justice Justin Trudeau Kaepernick Karen Armstrong Kaunda Kavanaugh Keaton Jones Kelly Pocha Kelowna Ken Lam Kick the can Kilauea killing Kim Jong Un Kim Jong-Un Kimberley Jones Kinder-Morgan Kinsbury mosque Kiribati Kissinger Kitimat kneel knitting knowing God knowledge Kootenay Kootenay Lake Kootenays Korean War kryptonite Kurt Weill Lake Country lakes Language Las Vegas law laws leadership learning leaves Lent Leonard Cohen Leroy Anderson Lethbridge letter letters to the editor leukemia Liberal lies life light lightning Linda Newkirk Lionel Shriver Lions Gate Bridge Lisa Genova listening little hens livestreamed video Lizard Brain LNG lobotomy logic lone wolf looking ahead looking back Lorax Lord Cornwallis Lord's Prayer Losses Lovelock
Copyright 2018 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada