Archive for the ‘encouraging words’ Tag

Life and Death


“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


Holy Week 2016 – Good Friday



The power that Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate thought they had over Jesus

Turned out to be illusory. 

The Passion story unveils another kind of power at work in the world, and in the Word.

When Jesus said, “All power is given to me in heaven and on earth,” 

He was not talking about domination and control

but about solidarity and liberation. 

At enormous cost

Jesus confronted the life-denying forces of his day and entered death,

showing us that our lives too can confront and overcome the forces of death in our day. “

From the Mission Statement of the Ecumenical Good Friday Walk for Justice in Toronto, Canada.

An Imaginary Climate of FEAR!

i-remember-for-peaceIMAGINARY CLIMATE OF FEAR

By Jim Taylor – Wednesday March 18, 2015

A big black SUV with dark-tinted windows pulled up beside me. The driver’s window zipped down. A very big man with a shaved head and lots of tattoos leaned out.

“Hey, you!” he growled.
It felt like the opening scene of almost any TV crime show.
“What kinda dog is that?” the driver demanded.
“A Chesapeake Bay Retriever,” I replied, a little nervously.
His door popped open. He levered his bulk onto the ground. He bent over to rumple my dog’s ears.
“I’ve never seen a Chesapeake before,” he said. “She’s got a beautiful face.”
Nope, definitely not your stereotypical crime show.
Television, I’m convinced, gives us a hugely distorted view of reality. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize how distorted that view is.
Every study, for example, says that the rate of violent crime in Canada has decreased by around 50 per cent over the last 25 years. Yet the federal government bases its run for re-election on fear, pushing a heightened “tough on crime” agenda.
Admittedly, the U.S. — source of most TV crime shows — has a much higher violent crime rate than Canada. You’re about three times more likely to be murdered in the U.S., according to Wikipedia. But the chances of being murdered at random are extremely low in both countries.

Rather to my surprise — yes, I get influenced by television too! — the overall crime rate in the U.S. appears to have dipped even faster than in Canada. Even for gun crimes.
Yet no one would ever get that impression from the hail of bullets launched every night on the screen, where teams of crime fighters smash down doors, fan out through homes wearing flak jackets, fingers on triggers….
TV coverage made the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, look like an episode of Star Wars last summer, with Darth Vader’s troops massing to crush protesters .
The medical profession suffers from TV-induced distortion too. Doc Martin glimpses a rash on a woman’s exposed belly. “I must operate immediately!” he commands. “Get me some boiling water!”
“At a time like this, you want tea?” his befuddled assistant gasps.
“To sterilize my scalpel, you idiot!” the doctor snorts.
Marcus Welby might have spoken more diplomatically, but the aura of omnipotence stays the same.
Given the stereotypes of medical drama, it must be very difficult for ordinary doctors to say, “I don’t know.”

The great failing of television, it seems to me, is that it ignores the essential goodness of people. In the rush of telescoping a plot into an hour, or a news story into a minute, there isn’t time to acknowledge little acts of kindness, compassion, caring.
I can’t quantify this claim, but I suspect that 99% of my life is spent trusting other people. Trusting that the relationship I have with them will withstand any disagreements. Trusting that those I don’t have a personal relationship with will still act with honesty and justice.
Yet the TV culture encourages us to base our life decisions on fear. We act to protect ourselves, even when nothing needs defending. We withdraw. We hold back. We hesitate.
We let a few drops of imaginary fear taint the entire bucket of life experience.
Copyright © 2015 by Jim Taylor. Non-profit use in congregations and study groups, and links from other blogs, welcomed; all other rights reserved.
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The Year of Fear



“As you know, we live in a fearful society that is devoured by anxiety. And we imagine in our anxiety that there are extreme “security” measures that will make us safe.

But if this is God’s world and if the rule of love is at work, then our mandate is not to draw into the cocoon of safety; rather it is to be out and alive in the world in concrete acts and policies whereby the fearful anxiety among us is dispatched and adversaries can be turned into allies and friends.”

Walter Brueggemann

in “Mandate to Difference: An Invitation to the Contemporary Church

A Testament of Hope

Take Responsibility

Take Responsibility

” Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham City Jail (April, 1963)

Christmas Eve, 2014

IMG_0027As we approach Christmas, 2014, the words of Joan Chittister are worthy of reflection:

“Christmas isn’t a holiday. Christmas is a way of being alive. “Christmas is not a time nor a season, ” Calvin Coolidge said, “It is a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Merry Christmas to you all – every day of the year.” says Chittister.

(page 125 in her book, “The Art of Life”)


This wonderfully deep, spiritual writer has also crafted the following words about Christmas*:

The promise has at last been fulfilled. Everything we’ve waited for is with us. The fullness of time has come in our time. Everything we could ever want we finally have. The people rejoice. The angels sing. The truth has come. Everything is perfect. Except….
Except that the stables of the world still house children whom the Christ child came to raise to life. This time it is our doors before whom they stand and beg for shelter. We are the people being asked to take them into our minds and hearts and souls. 
Christmas moves us to recommit ourselves to re-form our minuscule worlds to take in Christ the homeless child, the outcast, the refugee; Christ the other whose strangeness frightens us but whose otherness will teach us a great deal more about the world than we know at the present time.

Christmas calls us to take our lives and break them open at the crib where Jesus waits for us today.
Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem because they were from the “tribe of Judah.” They had to leave home to go home, in other words. It may be a Christmas lesson for all of us. Tied up in our own little worlds, we may be missing the one Jesus came to save through us unless we reach out to the “other.”  Christmas will come to us in its fullness when we welcome into the human race all those we persistently see as lesser, and cry, “Peace to God’s people on earth.”


Preparing for Black Friday

Jesus the Homeless

Jesus the Homeless

” False idols are everywhere these days: in newspapers, on TV ads, on billboards, in magazines, in the margins of every website, even on the phone. They are meant to excite us and arrest us and, they hope, seduce us. It’s not what we pass up because we can’t afford it that counts. It’s what we pass up because we don’t need it even when we can afford it. Then we know that we are free. “

Joan Chittister in her book, The Art of Life, p. 117

Remembrance Day, 2014

“Edith” lives in a nursing home in the United Kingdom, not far from the town from which she immigrated in 1946 from Berlin, Germany. The following quote about her views of Remembrance Day was published in the United Church Observer, November, 2014.

i-remember-for-peaceOf course we should focus on peace, yes, but first we have to understand why it is so important. Remembrance Day, is about remembering how easy it is for any nation to follow the wrong leadership and fall over the precipice into chaos. We remember the horror, the devastation, the depravity and the colossal losses and waste of human life. But most important is to remember what human life is capable of when we lose our way. We all have much to seek forgiveness for.”


Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (5)

"to see with the eyes of faith"

“to see with the eyes of faith”

“Fear is so fundamental to the human condition that all the great spiritual traditions originate in an effort to overcome its effects on our lives. With different words, they all proclaim the same core message: Be not afraid.””

A quote from Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach, page 57

Reflections on a violent day in Ottawa (2)

We didn’t lose our innocence. We never had it: Salutin

The idea that the events in Ottawa have somehow taken our innocence ignores Canada’s history and distorts the conversation about how to respond.

An Ottawa police officer lays flowers at the National War Memorial and pays his respects for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of the Canadian Army Reserves, who was killed Wednesday by a gunman.

ANDREW BURTON / GETTY IMAGES An Ottawa police officer lays flowers at the National War Memorial and pays his respects for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo of the Canadian Army Reserves, who was killed Wednesday by a gunman.

The Peaceable Kingdom isn’t even a Canadian phrase. It was used by U.S. Quakers in the 19th century. Literary critic Northrop Frye applied it here in the 1960s and it was popularized by Toronto historian and city councillor William Kilbourn. When I challenged him on its usage, he scoffed, “Don’t you recognize irony, man?” It was sarcastic, or at best an aspiration far from reality.

Canada fought through two world wars, largely as a loyal British adjutant. Our troops were known for violence and fierceness — like our hockey. There were strong racist strains in Canada toward French-Canadians and native peoples; and racist, “none is too many” immigration policies. Some of that was challenged in the 1960s (hence Kilbourn’s “man”) but in the midst of it came a far more severe episode of “homegrown terrorism”: the 1970 FLQ crisis. Ottawa was occupied by troops in tanks. In Quebec hundreds were thrown in jail without charges. Public figures were kidnapped and one was murdered. What virginity?

 Any virginity or innocence that Canada has was battled over and acquired in those years, not the normal route to chastity. The figure most associated with the peace-and-love Canadian image was Pierre Trudeau — who imposed martial law and told “bleeding heart liberals,” just watch me. Ten years later he brought in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You can at least argue it was his response to what he may have felt was his overreach in 1970. He embodied the struggle to wrest a different kind of Canadianness from the earlier model.

That fight for a new version of Canada was begun by politicians like Lester Pearson, who’d been through the two wars and felt there must be another way. With Canada finally emancipated from imperial control, and without the power to constitute an empire itself, they tried to build international bodies like the UN to at least share control over events with disaster-prone empires. They invented activities like peacekeeping as foreign policy and military alternatives. It was a work in progress but it attracted support — so much that it became identified with Canadian values, as if every Canadian received it at birth or upon citizenship. It suited a recently emancipated, formerly colonial nation.

What I find so irritating about the innocence/virginity narrative, aside from its ignorance, is how it subverts the debate we should be having on where to go now. Stephen Harper wants to reverse the course of the last 50 years and that’s his right. Nothing is irreversible. He restored the “Royal” to the military, scorned the UN, rubbished international initiatives like Kyoto and signed up as an enthusiastic subaltern for imperial ventures led by the U.S. and NATO. But the innocence narrative implies that the alternative to Harper isn’t a realistic set of policies; it’s a natural state like childhood which must be inevitably overcome. Those who peddle the narrative aid that obfuscation.

They also help conceal the real challenges of Wednesday’s events. Like what? All the party leaders were “defiant” and said Canada won’t be intimidated. I don’t even know what that means. Is there a place you go to sign up as intimidated? These aren’t nation-threatening entities. They’re criminals committing crimes. Calling it a state of war (another of the week’s tropes) gives them a ridiculous dignity. You can’t fight an actual war against criminals. It’s an intelligence-policing situation, as was 9/11, which the U.S. used as an excuse for real wars that made the situation massively more dire than it needed to be.

So where’s that Canadian innocence when we need it? Precisely among the police, I’d say. The Montreal cops who stopped a killer with only his death. The Ottawa cops. And sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers, whose policing career seems to personify firm peaceableness. Call them virginal if you want. They are peace officers and they appeared to do it well. Peacekeeping was never about non-violence. It’s about priorities, and minimizing the damage.

Rick Salutin’s column appears Friday.