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

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


Published on Saturday, May 11, 2019

Friendship as a way of life

Anne-Marie Ellithorpe wrote her PhD thesis on friendship – that deceptively simple relationship that all of us have experienced, but few of us have thought much about. 

                   “Friendships,” Ellithorpe wrote in Perspectives, the magazine of the Vancouver School of Theology, “are relationships of mutuality and reciprocity that may take different shapes within varying contexts and stages of our lives.”

                   That’s “thesis language,” unfortunately – accurate, but not exciting. In summary, Ellithorpe found friendship a “school for learning to love.” 


What friendship is not

                   Friendship is obviously not the kind of passionate infatuation that sets your heart racing and your palms sweating. But it’s more than the formal connection one has with a sibling, a parent, a colleague at work. 

                   Friendships are also more than the dispassionate, almost cerebral, association often lauded as “agape,” one of the four Greek terms for love. 

                    “Agape” implies that somehow I care about nameless refugees fleeing Somalia. Or flood victims in Iran. Or opioid junkies in downtown alleys. 

                   It’s a kind of universal compassion based on the recognition that they could be me. Or I could  be them. Except that we’re not. But God loves them anyway, and so should I.

                   None of them are actually friends. 


The kingdom of heaven

                   The late Scottish philosopher John Macmurray once suggested, in a BBC talk, that friendship was an illustration of the ideal “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” that Jesus talked about. 

                   Jesus, Macmurray reasoned, contradicted himself. One time he would tell his listeners, the kingdom is already here. Look around, you can see it. You all know it. Other times, Jesus would say it is not here. Not yet. But it can burst in, explode almost, unexpectedly. 

                   What human situation, Macmurray asked, fits those contradictory conditions? Friendship, he answered. Everyone knows friendship already. Yet we also know that friendship can blossom suddenly, between people who previously were barely acquaintances. 

                   Friends matter. 

                   Friendship doesn’t demand sameness. I don’t have to be an emotional or intellectual clone of my friends. I don’t have to fall in love with them. We can disagree on important issues. We can even take opposite sides. And yet we value and respect each other. We could and would trust each other with our possessions, our children, our loves and our losses.

                   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could be friends?

                   That’s the kind of relationship, Macmurray argued, that God, or whatever you think of as God, wants us all to have. Not just with a favoured few humans. But with everything.

                   With all people who pass through our bubble of influence – even those on the far end of an internet transaction. With all of nature – the fish in the stream, the trees growing along the stream, the birds in the trees, the stream itself. 

                   Even the deer who nibble my tulips every spring. 

                   I need to treat them all as if they were friends. 

                   Practically, I can’t treat everyone, everything, everywhere, as a personal friend. The numbers alone make that prohibitive.

                   But I can try. 

                   It’s a far preferable alternative to treating them as things of no consequence. 


Copyright © 2019 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





My recollections about sandbagging a flood, many years ago, encouraged a few of you to share your own experiences of floods and flooding. 


Frank Martens wrote, “I was once involved in a flood of my own.  We had purchased a property in Trout Creek, Summerland, when the Creek, before it was straightened, minimally flooded a few orchards beside it.  But water crept underground along an old creekbed which happened to go through our basement.  It was flooded to about a two-foot level.  None of our neighbours had any flooding.  We pumped it out and carried on.  

                   “We have purchased a number of properties in Summerland since then – but never anywhere near creeks! I’d say a few words about people who do choose to live near creeks and/or lakes, but…”

                   With admirable forbearance, Frank didn’t go into detail. 


Judy Lochhead saw the good side of flooding experiences:  “Enjoyed your article about rising water, Jim, and feel I can respond, having been through several flood and extreme weather occurrences in the past few years. You soon realize how little control we really have.  

                   “I noticed a couple of things in the conversations that happened since our experience. First it was the large number of people who have flood and extreme weather stories and experiences.  No doubt the changing climate is putting a lot of stress on our capacity to handle the variations we now experience. But certainly we found a lot of sympathetic ears and it seemed to us it was finally just “our turn”. 

                   “Secondly, call it God in action, or humanity at its best, when people need help, neighbours were there for each other with offers to sandbag, food, counselling, etc. It was so heartwarming to watch as the goodness in people became the norm and we just knew that peoplecared. When all was said and done, we recovered and moved forward -- and needless to say have much more respect for the power of water and weather!”


Isabel Gibson lives in Ottawa. Many TV reports showed the Ottawa River raging. Isabel wrote, “The floods in Ottawa and Gatineau are localized along the rivers.  Anyone outside that flood plain is pretty much unaffected. Then they started talking yesterday about having to protect the water treatment or intake plant.  If it gets flooded, the whole  city will be on a boil-water advisory. Another reminder of how complex and tenuous our way of life is.”


Tom Watson saw some humour in my narrative: “See, Jim, everything proves useful at some point. Even remembering the way to an old girlfriend's house helped you guide your friends to the right place to do the sandbagging.”





Psalm 23 is probably the most popular psalm in the entire Bible. Many of us had to memorize it in childhood; its familiar wording brings comfort in times of grief and stress. Many can still repeat it by heart. That very familiarity, though, creates problems for paraphrases. And paraphrasers. Simply updating the language does little to convey the underlying message. I’ve written at least six paraphrases of this one psalm. Today, I decided to go back to the one that started it all – an attempt to pose the message in an entirely different metaphor. 


My Mommy holds my hand;

I'm not afraid. 

She takes me to school in the mornings;

She lets me play in the playgrounds and the parks;

She makes me feel good. 

She shows me how to cross the streets,

because she loves me. 

Even when we walk among the crowds and the cars,  I am not afraid. 

If I can reach her hand or her coat,  I know she's with me, 

And I'm all right. 

When I fall down and I'm all covered with mud 

and I come home crying, 

she picks me up in her arms. 

She wipes my hands, and dries my tears, 

and I have to cry again, 

'Cause she loves me so much. 

How can anything go wrong

with that kind of Mommy near me?

I want to live the rest of my life with Mommy, 

in my Mommy's home for ever'n'ever. 


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.






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 blank email (no message) to poetry-subscribe@lists.quixotic.ca(If it doesn’t work, please let me know.)






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 web 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. The original website has been closed down, but you can still order the DVD set through Wood Lake Publications, info@woodlake,com

                             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. She also has lots of beautiful photos.

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



Comments (0)Number of views (208)


"gate of the year" #MeToo 150th birthday 1954 1972 3G 9/11 A God That Could Be Real abduction abortion Abrams abuse addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix affirmative action aging agnostics Ahriman Ahura Mazda airport killings Alabama albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations Almighty Almighty God ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Todd Amazon Amerika Amherst amnesia analysis Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anniversaries antidote Ants aphrodisiac apoptosis App Store Archives Ardern armistice Armstrong Art artifacts artists astronomy atheists atonement atropine Attawapiscat attitudes attraction audits authorities autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 baby Bach bad news baggage Bahai Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas barbed wire barbers Bashar al Assad BC BC Conference Beans bears beauty Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour bel-2 belief systems beliefs belonging benefits Bernardo Berners-Lee berries Bible biblical sex billionaire BioScience birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Black history Blackmore blockades blood blood donors Bloomberg boar body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women bombing bombings bombs books border patrol both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken Bruce McLeod bubbles Buber Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying bush pilots 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 CentrePiece CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Chesterton Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking Chile China chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christian Christianity Christina Rossetti Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas tree Christmas trees Christopher Plummer church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clichés cliffhanger climate change clocks close votes Coastal GasLink coastal tribes coffee collaboration collective work colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty communication Communion community complexity composers computer processes conception conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues confidence Confirmation confusion Congo Congress Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent conservative Conservative Party contraception contrasts Conversations conversion therapy copyright coral Cornwallis corona virus corporations corruption Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents courtesy courts Covenant Coventry Cathedral CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes creation creche creeds crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing crucifixion Cruelty crypto-currencies Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damocles Dan Rather Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Suzuki de Bono dead zone deaf deafness death deaths decision decisions Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy denial Denny's departure Depression Descartes despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass Diana Butler-Bass dinosaurs discussion dissent diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Don Cherry Donald Trump Donna Sinclair doorways Doug Martindale Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs ducks Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas earth Earth Day Easter Eat Pray Love Ebola e-cigarettes eclipse economics Eden editing editing by committee Edwards-Sawatzky Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or election Elizabeth Gilbert Ellithorpe email embassy emergent emotions Empire encryption English Entropy epiphany epitaph Erika van Oyen erosion Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy eunuchs evacuation evacuation orders Evangelical Fellowship Eve Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played everything evil Evolution expectations experiment extinction extinctions extradition extremes extremism eye for an eye Eyes Facebook faith falling leaves False Creek fascist fate fear Fedex feel feminine hygiene Fentanyl Fibonacci Field figure skating Fire fireball fires First Nations Fitbit flirting flooding floods floppy disks flow chart flow charts flowers fluency flying Flying objects fog Folk sayings Food Bank forensic Forest fires forests forgiving Four Pests campaign fracking franchises free free speech free will freedom freedom of speech frequency friend Friendship friendships fruit fundamentalism future Gaia games Gandhi Garbage Garrison Keillor Geese genes Genghis Khan genocide Gerald Stanley Gerard Manley Hopkins Ghomeshi girls glaciers global economy global warming go north God gods Golden Golden Rule Goldilocks good Good Friday good intentions goodness Google Google Play government Governor General grammar gravity Great Barrier Reef greatest story green Green Eggs Green Party Greta Thunberg Gretta Vosper grief Grinch Grounded Group of seven groups growth Guiado guilt guns Habits hackers Haidt haircuts Haiti Hal Niedzviecki Halloween handshake
Copyright 2020 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada