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

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

 

Published on Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Standing at the gate of the year

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown…”

            King George VI used those words in his Christmas address to the British Empire, in 1939--three months after World War II had begun. They seemed prophetic, given the “unknown” massing across the English Channel.

            It seems appropriate again, as we head into a new year in which the unpredictable Donald Trump is likely to be even more explosively unpredictable, a new year  in which China and Russia flex their muscles, in which financial markets display suicidal impulses, and in which global warming draws closer to irreversibility.

            The night looks dark.

            “Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown…”

            Although King George invoked that poem at the onset of the Second World War, it was actually written before the First World War, in 1908, by an obscure economist (and perhaps even more obscure poet) named Minnie Louise Haskins.

            Haskins published two books of poems. Only this one--which she titled “God knows”--achieved any lasting fame.

            Indeed, after the opening lines, the rest of the poem settles into saccharine assurances that an omnipotent God has everything under control. Given the savagery of the century of wars that have followed, her sentiments seem overly optimistic.

            Minnie and I part company on lines like,

“God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision, 
Are clear to God.”

            I, for one, can no longer believe in a supreme engineer somewhere out there who controls all the levers that keep the world running--smoothly or otherwise. That’s not a denial of God’s existence. I am not an atheist. God may indeed be an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent entity. I’m just saying that I can no longer believe in such a being.

            I now find God in the infinitely complex network of relationships that we have with each other, and with every other living thing on this planet.

            Other planets? That’s someone else’s problem. It has no practical relevance to how I act here and now.

            Relationships may affect how we react to natural catastrophes, but they do not cause them. Relationships may become acrimonious, but they never plan into the future.

            Minnie Haskins went on: the “man who stood at the gate of the year” replied

 “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

            Again, I take a metaphoric view. God doesn’t have hands. Neither do relationships. But both can and do offer support and encouragement. In tough times, I have “put my hand” into the warmth of the relationships that enfolded me, and no doubt other relationships that I wasn’t aware of.

            So as I stand today at the uncertain gate of a New Year, I can endorse Minnie Haskins’ metaphor when she writes,

“So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day…”

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

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

 

Not much in the way of letters responding to last week’s column about watching the lights on my Christmas tree late in the night. It was, frankly, sentimental self-indulgence – I wrote it for myself, as much as for anyone else. 

            But a few people told me, personally, that it had moved them to tears.

            Regular writer Tom Watson commented, “Thanks so much for sharing your memories! And let me take this opportunity to thank you for all your columns over the past year.

 

Bob Rollwagen responded to the metaphor of light in the darkness: “Merry Christmas Jim, you put a light into the world that shines every week.  Light is a symbol of energy, leadership, vision, social action, caring and many more such verbs. Yes, verbs. Thank you. It is good to shine a light on all our life memories.”

 

Ken Nicholls picked up on the fact that Christmases are not always joyful: “I live in Thetford, Norfolk. England. Each year the Methodist Church holds a Christmas Tree Festival when the whole church is filled with trees donated and decorated by organisations, individuals or groups from the Church and town. The church is filled with light. At the front is a special tree on to which people can hang white paper poppies on which they write their prayer requests. This year it was noticeable how many were not really prayer requests but heartfelt comments about loved ones who had died. They were thinking of the gaps that there would be around the Christmas table. It does us good to be sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and for many Christmas is not a particularly joyous time as it simply reinforces their loss as they remember past occasions. 

 

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

 

PSALM PARAPHRASE

 

This Sunday’s psalm selection is, of course, about the coming of a new year. Here’s a version of Psalm 148.

 

2          Within the womb of the heavens, the orb of earth leaps to praise its Creator. 

3, 4      As the pearl necklace of the planets swings around the sun, 
as the shining oceans embrace the continents, 
so do all living things praise the gift of life. 

5          For the Holy One expressed a thought, and the thought took form. 

6          God decided to speak, and the Word became flesh and lived among us. 

7          In that Word was holiness, 
the spirit that makes every life more than the sum of its chemicals. 
From the tiniest plankton in the sea to the great whales, 
from the ants that burrow in the dust to the eagle that soars in the heavens --
all owe their existence to t the same holy implulse.

 

8          Fire and hail, snow and frost, sun and drought, wind and rain--
all things work together for good. 

9          The mighty mountains erode into rich silt; 
fruit trees and cedars aerate the atmosphere.

10        The dung beetle depends on the wastes of cattle; 
birds and breezes carry seeds to new orchards.

11        No one is cut off from the energy of life, 
neither corporate presidents throned in corner offices nor derelicts huddled under bridges. 

12        For in God there is neither male nor female, old nor young, black nor white. 

13        All have been equally created; 
their lives all witness to God's grace.

14        With profligate generosity, God scatters new life among weeds and rocks. 
And all of creation responds with rejoicing. 

 

            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-Poetrywhere 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 blankemail(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 (1294)
Print
«May 2024»
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2829301234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930311
2345678

Archive

Tags

"gate of the year" #MeToo .C. Taylor 12th night 150th birthday 1950s 1954 1972 1984 215 3G 4004 BC 70 years 8 billion 9/11 A A God That Could Be Real abduction aboriginal abortion Abrams abuse achievement Adam Adams River addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix Advent advertising affirmative action Afghanistan agendas aging agnostics Ahriman Ahura Mazda airlines airport killings Alabama albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations allies Almighty Almighty God alone ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Gorman Amanda Todd Amazon American empire Amerika Amherst amnesia analysis anarchy Andes Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anger animals anniversaries Anniversary Anthropocene antidote Ants aphrodisiac apologetics Apologies apology apoptosis App Store Archives Ardern Aristotle armistice Armstrong army Army and Navy stores Art artifacts artists ashes Asian assisted death astronomy atheists atonement atropine Attawapiscat attitudes attraction audits Aunt Jemima Australia authorities authorities. Bible autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 Baal Shem Tov baby Bach bad news baggage Bagnell Bahai Baldi Bali Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas Barbados barbed wire barbers barriers Bashar al Assad Batman baton BC BC Conference Beans bears beauty Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour bel-2 belief systems beliefs bells belonging benefits Bernardo Berners-Lee berries Bethlehem Bible biblical sex bicycle Biden Bill C-6 billboards billionaire BioScience Bird songs birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Black history Blackmore blessings Blockade blockades blood blood donations blood donors Bloomberg Blue Christmas boar boarding school body Boebert Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women BOMBHEAD bombing bombings bombs books border patrol borrowing both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brain development Brain fog brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken Bruce McLeod bubbles Buber Bucket list Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying burials bus driver bush pilots butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras campfire Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats cancer candidates cannibalism Canute Capitol Capp caregivers Caribbean Caribbean Conference of Churches caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cash castes cats cave caveats CBC CD Cecil the lion. Zanda cell phones Celsius CentrePiece CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chesterton Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking childbirth children Chile Chile. Allende China chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christiaanity Christian Christianity Christians Christina Rossetti Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas Eve Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas tree Christmas trees Christopher Plummer Chrystia Freeland church churches circle of life citizenship Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clearwater Clichés cliffhanger climate change climate crisis clocks close votes clouds Coastal GasLink coastal tribes coffee coincidence cold Coleman collaboration collapse collective work colonial colonial mindset colonialism colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty comfort comic strips commercials communication Communion community compassion competition complexity composers composting computer processes Computers conception conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues confession confessions confidence Confirmation confusion Congo Congress Conrad Black consciousness consensual consensus consent conservative Conservative Party conservative values conspiracies conspiracy constitution construction contraception contrasts Conversations Conversion conversion therapy Convoy cooperation COP26 copyright coral Cornwallis corona virus coronavirus corporate defence corporations corruption Corrymeela Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents couple courtesy courts Covenant Coventry Cathedral cover-up COVID-19 Coyotes CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes Crawford Bay creation creche credit credit cards creeds cremation crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing Crows crucifixion Cruelty crypto-currencies Cuba Missile Crisis Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cutbacks cute cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damien Damocles Dan Rather dancing Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Scott David Suzuki de Bono dead zone deaf deafness death death survival deaths debt decision decisions decorations deficit Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy Democratic denial Denny's departure Depression Derek Chauvin Descartes Desiderata despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass Diana Butler-Bass Dickie dinners dinosaurs discontinuities discussion Dishwashing dissent distancing diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Don Cherry Donald Trump donkey Donna Sinclair donor doorways Doug Ford Doug Martindale Dr. Keith Roach Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs ducks duets Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas earth Earth Day earthquake Earworms Easter Eat Pray Love Eatons Ebola echo chambers e-cigarettes eclipse
Copyright 2024 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada