In his second book of modern parables, author Jim Taylor takes us to territory where Wikipedia doesn't exist. Where there is no "sure thing." Where events are ambiguous, unsettling, or just plain ordinary. A place where we, in our culture of "more and better" and "getting somewhere" don't willingly spend much time. Usually we don't notice this place much at all in our rush to get "the answer."
Yet every story, every event, however ordinary or vague, has God in it. More Everyday Parables contains the kind of story that doesn't have an explanation. Jesus made up his stories on the spot in response to questions from his followers. He used things that had happened to him, or someone he had heard about and made a story about it. Jesus told many of these stories, yet often they have been interpreted for us. And who will ever know exactly what Jesus meant?
Jim Taylor uses the "parable without explanation" in this book to offer an opportunity for the reader to reflect deeply on what the story evokes for them. He tells his stories about everyday happenings that we can all relate to, and then steps back and lets us notice where and how they touched us, if they touched us at all. Then if we wish to go further, he offers some of his own reflections on the story. This may allow new perspectives to open for the reader. Jim also suggests a Bible reading to accompany the theme.
Jim's stories remind us that God speaks to us through the world around us. And today's world, for most of us, is not the world of biblical images. More Everyday Parables re-enacts Jesus' method of teaching God's word and presence by using what happens as we live our life daily as a way to see God. However, unlike in his first book on parables, Jim does not provide an explanation of the imagery. He lets us go there ourselves.
Jim's accessible story telling style and the reflections and Biblical references make it ideal for personal study/reflection and group use. Clergy will also find it helpful as an adjunct to the Biblical parables.
About the author
Jim Taylor is one of Canada's best known authors and editors among mainline churches and denominations. He is the author of twelve books himself including The Spirituality of Pets (2006), An Everyday God (2005), Precious Days and Practical Love: Caring for an Aging Parent (1999), The Canadian Religious Travelguide (1982), Discovering Discipleship (with George Johnston, 1983), Two Worlds in One (1985), Last Chance (1989), Surviving Death (1993) republished as Letters to Stephen (1996), Everyday Psalms (1994), Everyday Parables (1995), Sin: A New Understanding of Virtue and Vice (1997), Lifelong Living (for the United Church's Division of Mission in Canada) (1983), and The Spiritual Crisis of Cancer (for the Canadian Cancer Society) (1984).
He was the founding editor of the ecumenical clergy journal Practice of Ministry in Canada (PMC) for the first 15 years of its publication. He was for 13 years Managing Editor of The United Church Observer. A co-founder of Wood Lake Books, Taylor lives and works in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley.
Excerpt: More Everyday Parables: Simple Stories for Spiritual Reflection (by (author) James Taylor)
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I was splitting wood for the fireplace earlier this month.
There’s something very satisfying about splitting – the grip of my hands on the polished axe handle, the strain of muscles in my arms and shoulders, the power of the axe head whirling down. When a log splits cleanly, the two halves spring apart like greyhounds leaping from the starting gate; the wood rings like a xylophone.
One log looked promising. On the outside, I could see no sign of knots.
My first swing made about as much impression on the log as it would have on reinforced concrete.
I swung again. The axe head bit deeply into the grain. And stuck there. I had to pry it out.
I swung again. Eventually, I wore the log out. In sheer weariness, it split. And deep inside, I found the problem. At some time early in that tree’s life, it had been wounded. There had been a limb broken or pruned off. The tree had grown around the amputated stump until the outside bark looked unblemished.
But deep inside, the grain still contorted around the invisible scar.
Communities can be like that, too.
A while ago, a controversy split our local community. At a community meeting, one speaker burst out passionately, “I used to love coming home. As soon as I came over the ridge, it felt like a haven of peace. I don’t feel that anymore. This kind of thing just tears me up…”
The issue has now passed into history. The divisions seem to have healed over. On the surface, at least, things have returned to normal. But if sometime in the future someone who doesn’t know about that former scar tampers with the status quo, they will re-open an old wound and wonder why they got such a hostile reaction.
People have different ways of dealing with conflict.
Some want to drag everything out into the open. To get it resolved once and for all. They usually assume that – with sufficient confrontation or persuasion – the other side will have to admit they were wrong. This process forces someone to lose. And a different scar forms.
Others say we should forget it. Sweep it under the carpet. Let wounds gloss over. But the knot still hides deep within the wood.
Personally, I hate conflict. I go out of my way to avoid it. But when I get backed into a corner, I tend to come out fighting, hoping to do as much damage to my opponent as possible before I go down.
The obvious answer is not to get into conflict in the first place. That would require fully hearing the other side. It would mean listening to other viewpoints. It would mean treating other people’s views with respect. Sometimes it might mean changing one’s mind and not doing what one had intended to do, so as to honour the collective consensus.
If it’s done properly, we don’t have to grow a hard knot deep inside the community.
Make peace with your brother or sister.
From Section 1: Plants and Nature
Other titles by James Taylor
An Everyday God
Insights from the Ordinary
The Spirituality of Pets
The power of the Psalms in language and images for today
In the Aftermath
What September 11 is teaching us about our world, our faith and ourselves
John for Beginners
A Bible Study for Individual or Group Use
Geography for the 21st Century
Precious Days & Practical Love
Caring For Your Aging Parent
Rediscovering God in Common Things