Annual Checkups we could all benefit from – by Jim Taylor   Leave a comment

Sunday August 14, 2016


By Jim Taylor

I had my annual physical checkup this last week. The doctor did all the usual things. He checked my vital signs — I still have them, thank you — and poked and prodded various parts of my body to make sure nothing was going wrong under cover, so to speak. He ordered a series of tests, to ensure he hadn’t overlooked anything.

He asked questions. And he took time to listen to me. To hear what I might have observed about the way my own body functions. After all, I live with it every day. But I don’t always know whether that mole is significant, or how to reduce the pain in my big toe.

Basically, I learned that I am still in good shape. For my age, at least. I can expect a few more years of reasonable health.

In grocery terms, though, my shelf life is limited. And I have certainly passed my “best before” date.

Occasionally, I read that an annual physical is a waste of time. It may be even hazardous. Apparently, the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and aneurysms rises after a medical examination.

 Maybe so. But I still want that annual checkup. I want to know what might be going wrong, before it’s too late to do anything about it.


 I also need other kinds of annual checkups.

 I do get an economic checkup periodically. I keep track of our investments. I know if we spend more than we need, cutting into the funds to sustain us for our remaining years. An investment advisor regularly sits down with us to evaluate our financial well-being.

But what about my emotional well-being?

I have no such thing as an annual emotional checkup. People ask, “How are you?” Or, “How are you feeling these days?” But it’s a courtesy, as meaningless as the supermarket cashier who tells every customer, “Have a great day!” If I take the question seriously, a detailed description of my feelings causes the questioner’s eyes to glaze over. She looks for someone else to talk to. Anyone.

The other day, a friend asked, “So what do you think of our civilization these days?”

“Doomed,” I replied.

Both question and answer were light-hearted. But he heard something more: “That doesn’t sound like the Jim Taylor I know,” he said.

So I probably need an occasional emotional checkup. It’s not something I can do for myself — my own feelings will inevitably colour my perception of those feelings.

And how about a spiritual checkup? Many people might not even consider a spiritual checkup important. And what would one check for , anyway — adherence to a defined set of beliefs? Memorized responses to a catechism?

No, it’s not about whether I believe the right things. It’s about how what I believe affects how I live.


Weathercock near Waupoos, Ontario


A spiritual checkup would probe my deepest convictions. Why am I here? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do about it?

Those convictions affect how I relate to my family and my friends. How I spend my money. What I do with my time. How I treat my environment.

Don’t confuse those convictions with conventional religion. They may — or may not — relate to my professed beliefs in God or my connection with a church. If the kind of God I believe in influences the way I deal with fossil fuels, human rights, and income disparities, good. But if I don’t believe in God, I still have to deal with those issues. And if the kind of God I believe in doesn’t affect those decisions, why should I bother believing in Him? Or Her — whatever…

These checkups require more than just head knowledge. They require sensitivity to me. I don’t want a medical checkup from someone promoting her own quack cures. I don’t want an economic checkup from a shill for his own mutual funds.

In the same way, spiritual and emotional checkups would require, I guess, someone with extensive insights into theology and psychology, but free of cookie-cutter solutions. Jesus is not the answer, if you haven’t heard the question. Nor is Freud.

As a milestone birthday hurtles towards me, and as I realize that the road ahead of me is much shorter than the road behind, I feel an increasing need to know that I’m on the right road. Or at least, on the road I want to be on.

Aha! That’s what I need to extend my shelf-life — a map reader!
Copyright © 2016 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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Spirituality and “religion”   3 comments


John Wesley frequently began his weekly study groups with a simple, profound question: “How is it with your spirit?”

Spirituality is a nebulous term, and it is in common use these days. I hear people telling me that, “I am a spiritual person, not a religious person” or, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” For a while I even considered responding to this type of dualistic statement by saying that, “I’m religious, but not spiritual.”

In her book called, “The Practice of Prayer”, Margaret Guenther takes the Christian journey of faith beyond being simply a belief system. “Our spirituality is not what we profess to believe, but how we order our lives. Our stewardship of time, energy, material things, and relationships to our fellow creatures reflects the way we express that ordering of our lives.

For those who follow the path of Christianity, our faith has an active component. It is more than what is in our minds, it is also reflected in how we live. In other words, “agency” is a part of the Christian path. Words and actions of those following the Christian way are also consistent with each other. In our Christian scriptures, the Letter of James reads;

“It isn’t enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all – it is dead and useless.” (James 2:17)

It seems to me that Christian spirituality might be summed up in the writings of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”(Galatians 5: 22)

St. Francis of Asisi’s words reflect this “active spirituality” in the statement that; It is in giving that we receive.

For those who wish to nurture their spirit, it is in sharing the gifts of love, joy, peace, etc, that we receive nurture for our spirit. For me, those are the fruits of the Spirit that describe the spirituality of Christian folk as we travel our journey of faith.

How is it with your spirit?

Life is more than …   Leave a comment

The sermon shared on Sunday at Beach United Church interpreted a challenging story from Luke’s Gospel – Luke 12: 13 – 21. The preacher, Rev. Lawrence Nyarko, suggested that we listeners consider also the words of Gandhi:

There is enough in this world to satisfy human need,

but not enough to satisfy human greed.



Life and Death   Leave a comment


“When the story of our time here is completed and we return to spirit, we carry away with us all of the notes our song contains. The trick is to share all of that with those around us while we’re here. We are all on the same journey, and we become more by giving away. That’s the essential teaching each of us is here to learn.”

Richard Wagamese in One Story, One Song, page 151

Remembering Dan Berrigan   Leave a comment


Daniel Berrigan, Roman Catholic priest, Christian prophet, and profound poet died on April 30, 2016, having made 94 trips around the sun.

A lengthy reflection by Jim Wallis can be found at:

Open Minds – open doors   Leave a comment


A wise woman once told me that,

“Your mind is like a parachute: it works best when it is open.”

On Good Friday the Toronto Star published a column titled, “An Easter Wish for Christianity” composed by Michael Coren. In it, Coren writes:

An authentic relationship with God is a dialogue,

involving questions,

arguments and even doubt.

The full column is at:

Re-thinking the Resurrection – Jim Taylor   Leave a comment


By Jim Taylor**

This is not one of my usual columns. The newspaper which gets “first publication” rights is not publishing today, Easter Sunday. That leaves me free to muse about Easter, in general.

Easter, as seen by the secular world, is about bunnies and eggs. And chocolate. And spring in the northern hemisphere. And did I mention chocolate? But in the Christian church, it’s about The Resurrection (with capital letters).

When I was much younger, the Rev. Jim Campbell invited his congregation to submit topics they wanted him to preach about. My note said, “Resurrection — I’d love to see how you handle it!”

I knew that Jim was too honest a minister to simply repeat conventional platitudes. He didn’t disappoint me. He admitted that he couldn’t understand it either, but clearly something had happened, “something” that changed lives, which started a domino effect that changed the world.

I can live with that ambiguity, even if part of my mind still wants a rational explanation for what happened. Or, perhaps, for what didn’t happen. But I would guess that 90 percent of the sermons preached this morning will declare, unequivocally,
a) that Jesus conquered death
b) that death is the direct consequence of sin
c) that Jesus had no sin, and that by accepting a death he didn’t deserve, Jesus paid off our sins in advance.

If our sins are already forgiven, why do we still pay the price of sin?

If Jesus defeated death, why do we still die?

In fact, why does everything die? Plants, mammals, fish, insects, bacteria — everything dies. They have different life spans — contrast a fruit fly and a sequoia, say — but they all die. Even our sun will eventually die, and take the inner planets with it. Death is the universal reality, simultaneously the immoveable object and the irresistible force.

The concept that death is the consequence of sin — “the wages of sin,” Paul called it — takes us into the Bermuda triangle of theology. If sin causes death, and all humans die, therefore all humans must have sinned. If we haven’t sinned ourselves — for example, a newborn baby — then we must have inherited sin from our parents. It’s a self-fulfilling equation, a vicious circle. Even if it’s nonsense. Sin may be learned, but it is not inheritable.

But it’s also nonsense to argue that death didn’t exist until Adam and Eve messed up. Would the plants and animals, the wild ones and the domesticated ones, the fruit trees and the fruitflies, all have lived forever if humans had not tasted that apple?

Now throw Jesus into that triangle. Traditionally, theology has insisted that Jesus was without sin. But he died. If sin and death have an unbreakable contract, Jesus broke it.

The only way to avoid admitting that the equation was faulty is for Jesus not to stay dead.

Besides, if sin leads to death, why didn’t Satan die? Satan is the personification of sin itself. But Satan has apparently achieved immortality. The Bible says that Satan was there in the Garden of Eden. Satan had tea with God in the story of Job. Satan tempted Jesus in the desert. According to Revelation, Satan will still be around until the final conflict. Even by Bishop Ussher’s timekeeping, that’s over 6,000 years.

By my reading, the Bible contradicts itself. Death happens whether or not someone sins. And sin — even the sin of rebelling against God — does not necessarily result in death.

I prefer to think of death as a gift from God. It is the matching bookend for the gift of life. Birth and death are our Alpha and Omega. Death was granted to all of creation, across the board. No exceptions, no favourites.

So Jesus didn’t have to undo the consequences of Adam’s disobedience. We didn’t have to be “redeemed” from inherited sin. That turns most rationales for The Resurrection into word games.

And yet, as Jim Campbell said long ago, something happened. Something that started 20 centuries of dominos toppling.
Copyright © 2016 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups encouraged; links from other blogs welcomed; all other rights reserved.
To send comments, to subscribe, or to unsubscribe, write

** re-published with permission from Jim Taylor


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