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!

Re-Purposing Your Life

The other day we met one of our favourite Boomer couples for lunch. It had been a long time since we had visited with them and so it was great to get caught up on all their news. We talked about how Covid had impacted our lives, our longing for a return to a more normal life and how we all missed seeing family and friends on a regular basis.

Then one of our friends said, “You know, this whole experience with Covid has made me reconsider retirement. At one time I could not wait for the day. Now I realise that when that time comes, I will need to have something more in my life, something meaningful, a reason to get up in the morning.” Our friend’s husband agreed and so did Richard and I.

Many Boomers who are still working full-time got a trial run at retirement during Covid. Working from home, we have learned what it is like to spend every minute of every hour of every day with our partner. We have missed our colleagues and the daily routine of getting up, dressed up, and heading out to work. Some of us have even missed the long commute. (Okay, maybe we didn’t miss it all that much!) It’s a been a wake-up call for those who have always believed that nothing could be better than sleeping in late each morning and spending the day reading and golfing and doing woodworking or making crafts.

Life is a long series of adaptations and one of the toughest ones we face is retirement. I have long believed that Churches could and should do a far better job of helping people in retirement, not by simply sticking them on a committee they may have no interest or aptitude for, but rather by helping people to really explore how God is calling them into a new chapter, one in which they are being encouraged to use their talents and hard won experience in the pursuit of a more just world. God gives us fresh beginnings every day. How will we use those in the service of God’s Kin-dom here on earth? Maybe we need to think of retirement less as a withdrawal from our life’s work and more as a form of “re-purposing” our lives, in which we re-align our lives to God’s purposes.

A Boomer’s Stroll Down Memory Lane! Happy Anniversary to the Best Husband in the World!

Yesterday, since my own church at Siloam does not re-open for in-person worship until Sunday, July 18th, I had the privilege of worshipping at Metropolitan United Church in London, Ontario. The service, music and message were excellent, as always; but what I was not expecting, especially given the theme (King David dancing around the Ark of the Covenant in an ancient G-string!), was a stroll down memory lane.

The first hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation”, was the hymn to which I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, 36 years ago today! ( I remember that one wit said, “Well, at least one good thing will be happening on Orangeman’s Day!”) Then, partway through the service, the amazing soloist sang one of my favourites: The Holy City, which brought back memories of the first concert Richard and I attended after our marriage. It was the Scottish folksinger Mary Sandeman singing this beautiful piece, accompanied by the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, at The King’s in Edinburgh.

Next there was the touching announcement made by liturgist Rick Wood as he shared the news of the recent birth of his little granddaughter. Understandably overcome by emotion, he shed a tear as he described this precious wee lass, that brought to mind the birth of our first child, also a girl, who will be married on August 14th, the circle of life complete!

And Rev. Dr. Geoff Crittenden’s reference to the scantily clad King David dancing around the Ark of the Covenant? Well, what can I say except that our daughter was soon accompanied by three younger brothers!

Remembering a Dear Friend: A Now Common Feature of the Second Half of Life Landscape

I have just re-read the story of Henry Francis Lyte. Born in Scotland on June 1st, 1793, Lyte was left an orphan when he was only a child. Life was hard for him and constantly he struggled with poverty. His dream of becoming a physician eluded him, but he eventually felt a call to the ministry.

He wrote that a turning-point occurred in his life when he was summoned to the bedside of a dear friend who was dying. Both he and his friend were devastated by the prospect of the man’s death, but together they read the scriptures and prayed. Through that experience each found the peace he needed: the dying one found love and acceptance in the sure hope that he was returning to the God who loved him, and Lyte discovered his pathway into the Christian ministry.

For nearly 25 years Lyte served as minister to the fisherfolk and sailors of Lower Brixham. But his health was frail and over the years it continued to dissipate. In the fall of 1847, Lyte had a premonition that the end was near. He told a friend that the swallows were flying southward and that “they were inviting me to accompany them; and yet alas; while I am talking of flying, I am just able to crawl.”

Soon he celebrated his farewell worship service with the good people of Brixham. Afterwards he walked out to the shoreline and watched the splendour of the setting sun over the shimmering waters. After spending about an hour in nature, he returned to his study to compose one of the Church’s most favourite hymns: “Abide With Me”. The words are included below.

Those of us who find ourselves in the second half of life are starting to grow accustomed to endings. It is the part of the older adult journey that I like the least, but I know I have to get used to it. I remember when I was starting out in ministry, a lovely man who was the local funeral director told me in private that he did not think he could do his job much longer. He was in sixties at the time and found that he was burying too many of his friends.

A couple of weeks ago I lost a dear friend. Bruce was the Clerk of Session on my ordinand’s pastoral charge. He was not the most successful farmer I have ever known, but he loved life on the land and he loved people.. He was also a thoughtful, caring and deeply faithful servant of Christ. He loved to sing in the choir and I am sure Lyte’s hymn was a favourite because Bruce loved all the “oldies but goodies.” Although I did not get to see him a lot in recent years, he would phone me from time to time, always eager to learn about what I was up to and how my family was doing. Over the years Richard and the children and I have received many beautiful cards from him. He never forgot a birthday or an anniversary. I know he trusted that God abided with him throughout all the ups and downs of life. Now “heaven’s morning has broken for him” and, as in life, so in death Bruce abides in the eternal love of the Lord he served for 85 years.

Rest in peace, Bruce.

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.