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

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Published on Saturday, December 24, 2022

Let your light shine…

Thursday December 8, 2022


Every year around this time, I feel a need to update a column from previous years. This one dates from 2013.

            The first Christmas after Joan died, I decided not to put away all the Christmas decorations. They spoke to me of warmth in winter, of caring and compassion, of togetherness – themes I desperately needed that first year of Covid-19 isolation.

            So, for the last three years, a small ceramic Christmas tree has been sitting on a table in my front hall. It’s not much of a tree – about 12 inches high, dark green, with whitish snowflakes on the ends of its branches. A light bulb inside shines out through coloured plastic plugs stuck into holes in the branches.

            If I’m going out at night, I turn it on before I leave. When I come home again, it welcomes me back, glowing softly in the darkened entry.


Shining in the dark

            It never was particularly pretty, I suppose. But it’s special. Because it was given to me with love.

            It came from a woman named Lorraine Wicklow almost 50 years ago. The next summer, Lorraine died of a massive brain hemorrhage.

            As far as I know, she had no family, no relatives. Perhaps I was her family. She used to drop in at my office, when I worked for the United Church’s national magazine, The Observer. She always arrived at the very end of the day, just as I was loading up my briefcase to go home.

            Internally, I sighed. I knew this would be a long evening.

            “Just a minute, Lorraine,” I would say. Then I’d call Joan: “Lorraine just dropped in.”

            Joan understood, and took supper out of the oven.

            “I mustn’t keep you,” Lorraine always said. But she did, anyway.

            Lorraine’s theology couldn’t have been farther from mine. She attended a fundamentalist church. She had visions. She told me about heaven. About streets paved with gold, and gates made of jewels. About the people she met there, and their message for me.

            When I described her visions to Gordon Nodwell, the minister at the United Church down the street from my office, he said, “That’s straight out of Revelation.”

            So I read Revelation. 

            She’d relate another of her visions. “Do you believe that?” she would ask, leaning forward earnestly.

            “Not really,” I would reply. And I would try to explain, as well as I could. 

            She countered with a text, invariably from the King James Version. 


Listening to each other

            We lived in different worlds. But we listened to each other. 

            Still, whether I understood her or not, I know she lived her faith, 100 percent. She forgave me for my heresies, because that’s what Jesus would have done.

            And, sometimes, after I had stumbled through an explanation of why I believed what I did, she would say, “You know, when you talk to me that way, you almost shine.”

            Lorraine’s little ceramic tree still shines in the darkness of my front hall. It seems to embody the promise in John’s gospel: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never been able to put it out.”

            Someday, Lorraine’s tree will break and go into landfill. Until then,  though, she continues to shine in my memories.


Copyright © 2022 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





Diana Cabott challenged my passing reference, last week, to many of us having passed our “Best Before” dates.

            “I would have thought you and I would agree that as long as we can find some joy every day and someone to whom we can offer a helping hand...which I know you do....there is much beauty. We just have to look a little harder.”


Isabel Gibson: “I don't know about ‘best-before’ dates, but my husband says that at our age we're playing with ‘house money’: we've had all and more that we could reasonably have expected. Anything from here on is a bonus. 

            “In theory it's a framing that should make us a little less apprehensive or resentful about the bad things that inevitably happen, and a lot more appreciative of the good things that come along in the meantime.

            “But I like your image of the future-in-waiting. Maybe God is, in part, the One who invites us (kicking & screaming? pouting resentfully?) into His future?”


Last week, Isabel sent along a link to the Clint Black song, Something That We Do. Ralph Milton wrote,  “That Clint Black song is really quite powerful. Thanks.

            “Your column had me thinking about the conversation we had earlier about the arc of life, and all the way along we wait, looking ahead with anticipation or with dread.”


Dorothy Haug also enjoyed the Clint Black song, and added,: “Thanks, as always for another perspective on waiting and living into our future. It was refreshing.”


Tom Watson admitted, “I don't like waiting either. And yet, I, as you, spend a fair bit of time doing so. One of my current ‘waitings’ is to see whether I am to be assigned a new doctor at the clinic where I've been a patient for over 30 years -- the one I had moved to and am now left in the lurch...waiting. The future will unfold but I wouldn't mind knowing what it will be. Now, please!”


Pat Feidner: “Personally, I like to remember that advent is the beginning of adventure. Each year brings a different adventure if you let it and the ‘wait’ isn't nearly as uncomfortable.”


David Gilchrist remembered “being impatient for something to happen, a very long time ago. I can’t even remember for sure who it was -- but my mother said: ‘Don’t wish your life away.’ I sure know now what she meant. Every week seems to pass in 2 or 3 days; and each day seems to pass in a remarkably short time. And last Christmas feels like it was about 6 months ago! I guess it’s just that old age slows us down so much that everything we do takes longer.”


In a letter, Steve Roney referred to situations where the "government is in the wrong". John Shaffer responded: “In a democracy, one can theoretically vote the leadership out, but that is easier said than done. 

            “There are some countries where opponents are put in jail by those with power and the guns to enforce that power.  So far, we can protest in the United States of America and Canada without excessive fear, but sometimes I keep quiet just to avoid conflict in my retirement home, let alone ‘out in the world’.”


Clare Neufeld concurred: “Jean Valjean changed me viscerally, as a 14-yr-old child -- and then again, when my wife, daughter and I watched the long running dramatic version in Queen’s Theatre in London, UK, many years later.”




Psalm paraphrase


Because this mailing is so delayed – this week’s Soft Edges will explain how I was miserably ill most of last week – there’s no point in including a psalm paraphrase for the Sunday that has already passed.


Apparently the print version of my paraphrases of most of the psalms in the Revised Common Lectionary is now out of print. But you can still order an e-book version of Everyday Psalms from Wood Lake Publishing, info@woodlake.com, or 1-800-663-2775



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