“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!