“Is God in Control? Or Do We Have the Power to Choose?” Join Rabbi Address at Siloam on Saturday, November 13th to Learn More!

There is less than a month to go before we welcome Rabbi Richard Address to Siloam to help us to navigate Our Long and Winding Road: Seeking our Place in the Longevity Revolution.

Recently I gave you a sneak preview of Rabbi Address’s first two presentations on Saturday, November 13th. His third presentation, which will take place after lunch that day, is just as fascinating as the first two and raises an important issue we all struggle with: “the theory of self”, how we understand ourselves and the meaning of our lives. Rabbi Address takes as his text Genesis 37:15: “A man found him (Joseph) wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

Is this not our question too? “What are you looking for?” What is that thing or being that, when found, will bring our lives what we need and which will bring us meaning, purpose, joy and even redemption?

Closely tied to this theme, says Address, is “the impact of randomness in life.” Again, this brings up questions that we all often ask ourselves: “Is God in control? Or do we have the power to choose?”

This is a question we have been exploring this Fall in our weekly Bible study at Siloam. It will also be part of the theme I address in worship at Siloam this coming Sunday, October 24th. It seems to me that too many of us harbour what I would call a bad theology or bad religion. Instead of seeing God as a loving and gracious God who allows God’s creatures the freedom to make decisions, there is still a tendency for people to regard the Divine as some kind of authoritarian, judgmental and omnipotent God, who predestines some to eternal life and others to eternal hell.

As you look back on your life, think about your image of God. Where has God been there for you throughout the decades? How has God come to you? Who are the angels (messengers)  in your life who have given you a glimpse of God’s eternal and unconditional love?

“Is God in control? Or do we have the power to choose?” Come and join us on Saturday, November 13th as we explore these crucial questions together!

A Poem for thanksgiving

Today, being the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday, I want to share a beautiful Thanksgiving poem written by one of our cousins south of the border, Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Wilcox was born in Wisconsin and lived from 1850 to 1919. This is just one of many beautiful poems she penned. As you ponder her words, reflect on the many blessings in your own life and give God thanks.

We Boomers have much for which to be thankful. Most of us enjoyed a privileged childhood and were given opportunities that were not available to previous generations. Many of us have had the enriching experiences of post-secondary education or have travelled to far away places. Materially speaking, we have achieved a standard of living higher than our parents.

But we have had our ups and downs too. Because we are such a large cohort, we have had to work incredibly hard in order to compete for good jobs. Sometimes this has cost us our marriages and our health, or led to estrangement from children and siblings. We have also witnessed horrible suffering around the world among those far less fortunate than ourselves, including our Indigenous relations and people of colour in our own backyard.

So maybe we need to be thankful for the fact that we have survived this long!

What are YOU thankful today? We all have some blessings in our lives and we can all BE A BLESSING to someone else. Read Wilcox’s poem below and consider where and how you are being called to practise the art of gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving

We walk on starry fields of white
   And do not see the daisies;
For blessings common in our sight
   We rarely offer praises.
We sigh for some supreme delight
   To crown our lives with splendor,
And quite ignore our daily store
   Of pleasures sweet and tender.

Our cares are bold and push their way
   Upon our thought and feeling.
They hand about us all the day,
   Our time from pleasure stealing.
So unobtrusive many a joy
   We pass by and forget it,
But worry strives to own our lives,
   And conquers if we let it.

There’s not a day in all the year
   But holds some hidden pleasure,
And looking back, joys oft appear
   To brim the past’s wide measure.
But blessings are like friends, I hold,
   Who love and labor near us.
We ought to raise our notes of praise
   While living hearts can hear us.

Full many a blessing wears the guise
   Of worry or of trouble;
Far-seeing is the soul, and wise,
   Who knows the mask is double.
But he who has the faith and strength
   To thank his God for sorrow
Has found a joy without alloy
   To gladden every morrow.

We ought to make the moments notes
   Of happy, glad Thanksgiving;
The hours and days a silent phrase
   Of music we are living.
And so the theme should swell and grow
   As weeks and months pass o’er us,
And rise sublime at this good time,
   A grand Thanksgiving chorus.

This poem is in the public domain.

FEELING RESENTFUL LEADS TO ACCERLATED AGING — AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT

Tis the Season to be Thankful – at least in Canada! Our Canadian Thanksgiving holiday is next Monday, October 11th. This week people are decorating their front porches with bright orange pumpkins, wreaths of corn and other decorations like haystacks and scarecrows. Shopping for the turkey and baking pumpkin pies will also form part of the week’s rituals for many. Some this Fall will even be fortunate enough to be able to spend this holiday with family and close friends, while still of course practising safe social distancing. If the weather is clement, as it often is at Thanksgiving, the festivities will be held out of doors.

But thanks-giving should not just be something we celebrate once a year. Indeed, those who give thanks all year long are known to be healthier and happier. Kerry Howells has been researching gratitude for the past 25 years. Lately, however, her research on gratitude has taken a different direction. There is all kinds of research on the life-enhancing qualities of practising gratitude on a regular basis. But one of the questions she regularly gets from audiences is: “, “OK, I get gratitude, but how can I be grateful when I feel so resentful?”

It’s a good question, for who among us has not felt resentful, not once but many times in life? As Howells notes, we may feel resentful because one sibling seems to be favoured over another. Or the neighbour’s dog barks incessantly, keeping us awake at night. Or maybe a promotion goes to a colleague who does not seem nearly as qualified or as worthy as we are. What about the partner who does not do his or her share of the household chores? You fill in the blanks. We’ve all got something in our life about which we feel resentful.

Howells says that resentment is known as the “emotion of justice”. If we give up being resentful it may seem as though we are letting the other person off the hook.

In my experience, the opposite is true. When I am resentful toward another person it is I who usually suffer. It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! Resentment can be a kind of prison for the one who experiences this debilitating emotion.

In her recently released book, Untangling You: How Can I Be Grateful When I Feel So Resentful?, Howells notes: “The meaning of the word resentment comes from the Old French word resentir, which means ‘the re-experiencing of a strong feeling.’ Two distinguishing features of resentment are that it causes us to ruminate—that is, to go over and over the situation in our minds—and that it lingers over time. We are often initially so shocked by what has happened to us that the disappointment, frustration, or anger we feel becomes lodged and it’s difficult to move on.”

The problem with resentment is that it leads to compromised health conditions. Many who experience resentment, especially if they are constantly ruminating about it, have trouble sleeping, endure changes in cardiovascular activity and stress-related hormones, and even suffer from depression.

And here is something we Boomers in particular need to note: those of us who give in to feelings of resentment and unforgiveness often undergo an acceleration of the aging process that leads to a variety of diseases, such as increased instances of heart disease and cancer.

But if we can learn to harness the practice of gratitude, Howells says that we will find in it an amazing resource for staving off all the negative feelings associated with resentment. How to do this is something she explores in more detail in her book.

For now, I want to draw your attention to one of the talks that Rabbi Richard Address will be giving at Siloam on Saturday, November 13th on Jacob and Joseph. In this presentation Rabbi Address will discuss the question of reconciliation. With whom do we need to be reconciled with and how can we find and practise forgiveness in the second half of life? It is a theme we all need to re-visit many times in our lives, but it becomes even more crucial as we age.

This is why I hope you will join me for “Our Long and Winding Road: Seeking our Path in the Longevity Revolution” with Rabbi Richard Address.  There are still a few places left, but register soon because spaces are limited! Please note that for your safety we are requiring all participants to show proof of double vaccination and I.D. – or proof of medical exemption. A great day full of fascinating and helpful messages, a delicious lunch and snacks, and an excellent book room for you to peruse! I hope to see you there!

Do we ever escape our family of origin?

Last week I talked a bit about the first presentation Rabbi Address will give on November 13th. Today I want to share one of the themes of his second presentation, which focuses on Jacob and Joseph.

In this talk, Rabbi Address asks: Do we ever escape our family of origin? Is Dad still alive? Is Mom still alive? I know that whenever I look in the mirror, I see my late mother’s face staring back at me and she seems very alive! She still influences traditional practices I keep and some of the decisions I make, both large and small.

For instance, I never, never throw out a piece of aluminum foil until it has been used multiple times and I am absolutely convinced I cannot get one more turn out of it. Then there are the pretty spring and autumn wreaths that people place on their front doors and which I love. But the only time I put a wreath on our front door is at Christmas, because that’s what Mom did. When she was young a wreath on the door at any other time of year meant that someone in that home had died. Even though we no longer associate front door wreaths with death, I feel that my mother would disapprove if I were to hang one on my door except at Christmas. So I simply enjoy other people’s front door wreaths. These of course is just small things, but I know that, at least unconsciously, my mother continues to influence much bigger decisions I make in life, normally for good, but not always. For example,  there have been prejudices that my parents held that I have needed to reexamine and then shed altogether.

The biggest question I have concerns what my parents would think of the life I have created. I often wonder whether they would be pleased with the big choices I have made. I would like to think that they would be happy with the way I turned out and the family that Richard and I have raised; but there are some days I am not really sure. Have I been a disappointment to them? They would have been thrilled, for example, if I had finished my PhD in Church History at the University of St. Andrews and taught at a university. That did not happen. So am I still trying to earn their approval and make them proud of me? Even in the second half of life I am not sure that we ever fully escape this desire to please our parents – especially when we have been blessed with good and loving parents.

Do we ever escape our family of origin? Do we want to? What do YOU think?

Who Are You and Who and What Defines You in the Second Half of Life?

Have you registered for Our Long and Winding Road: Seeking Our Path in the Longevity Revolution with Rabbi Richard Address? If not, you will want to do so very soon. Because we are trying to limit our capacity as per health unit directives, we have intentionally restricted the number of participants who can attend. For this reason only a few spaces still remain.  

Rabbi Address will have several very stimulating presentations on November 13th that speak directly to the issues that are most on our hearts. In his first address for the day, he will focus on a question that most of us have probably wrestled with all our lives but which now takes on a new poignancy in the second half of life, namely, who am I and who and what defines me?

In other words, who tells us who we are? Our car? Our house or how well appointed our condo is? Our bank account? The size of our retirement portfolio? How successful our kids are? The photos of grandchildren we carry around in our wallets or how many bogeys we got in last week’s golf tournament? Where we spend our winters? Our hobbies? The books we read or the sports we play? Our volunteer activities and what we give back to our community?

Whether we realise it or not, the question of our identity is a profoundly spiritual one. It invites us to reflect upon where we have been and where and how God is calling us to serve in this chapter of our lives, which, as Rabbi Address notes, is a time of spiritual transformation akin to that  revealed in the story of Jacob’s Ladder.

Moreover, what and who are the angels who hold us as we age? With what do we wrestle in our older years? And where and how do we receive God’s blessing?

a great coming of age story for boomers and older adults

Most coming of age novels are about young people on the cusp of adulthood, but recently my dear, life-long friend Liz put me on to a beautiful story which shifts the genre to a much later generation. The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by up and coming English author Beth Morrey deserves all the high praise that has been heaped upon it. Beautifully written, the novel invites us into the life of former Cambridge graduate Millicent (Missy) Carmichael as she struggles with loneliness and contemplates her 79th birthday without her children or her brilliant, renowned historian but distant husband by her side. Ruminating on an event that happened after a party she attended while she was a student at St. Botolph’s (the same party where Sylvia Plath met Ted Hughes) and a difficult choice she had to make because of it, through Missy we learn how to forgive ourselves and even find new hope and new friends in surprising places in our older years.


One of the key concepts Morrey deals with is the Greek idea of oikos, that sense of hearth and home that is much more than bricks and mortar and which speaks of family and love, security and comfort. We might describe it as a feeling of wholeness coupled with a sense of belonging.


Other important themes concern inter-generational relations and how we repair our relationships with our adult children, the changing nature of marriage as we age, the many faces of loneliness, how we learn to build a community for ourselves in our later years, and the role of young children and pets in helping us to stay lighthearted. Dog lovers will instantly warm to this book!


As the critics have written, there is nothing saccharine about The Love Story of Missy Carmichael. If you are ready for a story that invites you to go deeper and raises the kinds of courageous questions that we need to ask ourselves in this stage of our lives, this book may be just what you need. Poignant and heart-warming, it shows how we can find hope, meaning, and spiritual fulfillment in the second half of life if we are willing to move outside our comfort zone. Discussion questions suitable for book groups and an interview with the author are included at the back of the book.


I highly recommend this novel to all my Boomer and older adult friends AND to my millennial aged-children and friends as well.

Fall is Here and Rabbi Richard Address Will Soon Be Joining Us for an Amazing Event, So Register Now!

Our Long and Winding Road:

Seeking our Path in the Longevity Revolution

RICHARD F. ADDRESS, RABBI, D.MIN

Richard F. Address, D.Min., is a leading authority on Boomer and Older Adult Ministry. He serves as Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. He served for 33 years on staff of Union for Reform Judaism as Regional Director and then as Founding Director of Department of Jewish Family Concerns.

He has also served congregations in California and, for the last several years, was senior rabbi at a congregation in southern New Jersey. He hosts the weekly radio show “Boomer Generation Radio” in Philadelphia and serves as co-chair of the Committee of Spirituality and Diversity for C-TAC: the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care.

Rabbi Address is active with the World Union for Progressive Judaism and writes and speaks regularly on issues related to baby boomers, aging and how Judaism can impact our lives as we age. An incredibly engaging and thoughtful speaker, we are delighted to be able to welcome Rabbi Address back to London this November.

RESCHEDULED DATE

Saturday, November 13, 2021
9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (Registration opens at 8:30 a.m.)
$50 per person – snacks and lunch included
Hosted at Siloam United Church, London, ON

HOW TO REGISTER

Or leave a message on the church’s voicemail: 519-455-9201

Are You Anxious or Worried? Then Please Join our Study of Max Lucado’s book, “Anxious for Nothing”, at Siloam United Church, Friday, September 17th, 10 a.m. — 11:45 a.m.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the daily lives of most Canadians, including Baby Boomers and Older Adults. The increase in social isolation, job and income loss, and difficulties meeting financial obligations, only exacerbate the problems faced by many in our land, particularly those groups that are marginalized. An increase in depression, PTSD (post traumatic stress syndrome), and anxiety mean that the mental health of too many Canadians has been seriously compromised. Threats of a possible fourth wave of the pandemic do little to assuage these fears.

Even before the pandemic hit, many Canadians suffered from stress and anxiety. While we cannot always control the events that happen to us and those around us, we can learn how to “reframe” our fears and anxieties and begin to live the life that God wants to give us.

If you would like to explore this topic further, please join us for our Fall Study Group at Siloam. No previous knowledge of the Bible is required. Just a willingness to prayerfully discern what the scriptures have to say to us in our contemporary context. Masks are optional for those who have been doubly vaccinated and every attempt will be made to provide socially distanced seating for those who are not in the same bubble, unless further restrictions are posted by the Middlesex Health Unit.

Only a few spaces remain, so please register early if you wish to attend. We begin our study on Friday, September 17th, 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., Siloam United Church, 1240 Fanshawe Park Road East. To register please write to smacgregor@siloamunitedchurch.org You may purchase Max Lucado’s book at Creation Bookstore at 900 Oxford Street East in London. If possible, please read the first section, chapters 1 to 4, chapter before our first session on September 17th.

For more information on Lucado’s book and our study, please watch the video below:

The Daffodil Principle

For the month of August I will be taking a sabbatical from my blog. As I prepare to start holidays on Tuesday, I thought it would be nice to leave you with this beautiful story. Some months ago a lovely woman in my congregation sent me this article about the Daffodil Principle. (Thanks, Joyce!) Perhaps you are familiar with it. It originates in the Chicken Soup books, a series that has been very popular with many Boomers over the years. I draw upon Sam Thomas Davies for this story.

Writer Sam Thomas Davies tells about something he read in Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul:

“In one chapter, Jaroldeen Edwards recounts the day her daughter, Carolyn, drove her to Lake Arrowhead to visit a daffodil garden.

Apparently Jaroldeen’s daughter was constantly urging her to visit the daffodil garden with her. It was two hours away and Jaroldeen was not sure she wanted to drive that far, but finally she made the trip. When she and her daughter arrived at the daffodil garden, Jaroldeen couldn’t believe her eyes:

“We turned a corner of the path, and I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight. It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it down over the mountain peak and slopes . . . There were five acres of flowers”.

There were daffodils as far as the eye could see.

On the land, was a house with a poster that read: “Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking”. The first answer was: “50,000 bulbs”. The second answer was: “One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and [a] very little brain”. The third answer was: “Began in 1958”.

This woman had adopted what Jaroldeen would call “The Daffodil Principle”: a lifelong commitment to a goal by taking one action every day.”

Jaroldeen’s story, as recounted by Davies, reminds us that most success stories are the result, not of sudden, spectacular wins or extraordinary actions. Instead, they are about taking one action at a time, committing oneself daily to a larger goal, remaining faithful to that goal through hard work and dedication. They are also about learning to be flexible, trusting the process, and being willing to learn new ways of doing things. The woman who planted the daffodils, one bulb at a time, had to learn about the quality of the soil, how and where to plant the flowers so that they would receive just the right amount of sunlight, and then she had to commit herself to regular watering, fertilizing and weeding of the garden. Not an easy or glamorous job but one that led to a glorious garden that has brought tremendous joy and beauty into the lives of many.

The season for daffodils has passed; but many other flowers are beginning to bloom and there will be others that will blossom throughout August and September. I hope that you will take time to smell the flowers, to give thanks for the hands that planted and nurtured them, and for our loving God who sends the rain and sunshine to help them grow.

Have a wonderful summer, friends, and see you again in September!