As we approach the National Day of Thanksgiving it is appropriate to examine our attitude. Is it one of thankfulness or do we suffer from the common sin of ingratitude?

A young boy was given an orange by a man. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.” Is that the way we think and act?

Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” is a good thing. Research has shown that gratitude is associated with lower levels of depression, envy, delinquency and higher levels of academic performance, life satisfaction, self-esteem, hope and happiness.

A recent study also shows that feeling grateful makes people less likely to turn aggressive when provoked. “Gratitude is more than just feeling good,” says Nathan DeWall, who conducted a study in Kentucky. “It helps people become less aggressive by enhancing their empathy. It is an equal-opportunity emotion. Anyone can experience it and benefit from it.”

It is so easy to take the blessings of life for granted. My wife and I both grew up in Mobile, Alabama. In a recent visit we drove around the area and marveled at the beauty of the giant oak trees, the fertile farm lands, and the expansive skies. I don’t remember recognizing that beauty when I lived there. I suspect that I fail to recognize and appreciate much of God’s marvelous creation in Atlanta and the north Georgia region where I now live because I have become so accustomed to it.

In the online website http://www.anepiceducation.com the writer remembers how “it took a surprise (40th) birthday party… to … help me realize just how fortunate my dumb little life on this planet had been so far. Until then, I had only looked at what I thought I lacked or was losing (money, excitement, youth), and not at what I already had and was gaining (good friends, health, wisdom). It was a real turning point for me, and one that I wasn’t expecting. Suddenly, birthdays were celebrations again — no fanfare or grand parties, but truly happy days. They no longer represented the march to banality and death, but became a moment to reflect on how much I had to be grateful for.”

That reflection is of special interest to me because the author is my son. His insights demonstrate the kind of thankfulness that I am suggesting is beneficial for us and others around us.

The Bible admonishes us to “Give thanks in every situation because this (thankful spirit) is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:18). Everything that happens to us is not God’s will but an attitude of gratitude is what God desires and expects from us in all circumstances.

Jamie Jenkins

If you want to know how many left-handed, blue-eyed, young adults live in a particular zip code, there is a poll that can tell you. Are you interested in the flavor of ice cream preferred by bald-headed men over the age of 65 (Butter Pecan for me)? There is a survey that can give you that information. Looking for the shampoo that gives you healthy full bodied hair (I am)? Marketing analysts will be glad to guide you.

We have come to rely on surveys, polls, and prognosticators to tell us what is popular or pricey. And usually the two go together. The cars we buy, the television shows we watch, the places we go on vacation depend a lot on this kind of data.

Before the election last week, virtually all polls told us that certain political races were “too close to call.” The numbers suggested that it would probably take a while to determine the outcome of some pivotal positions and some would be determined by a run-off.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the polls showed “the two top races in Georgia were so excruciatingly close that both might have to be decided by runoffs.” But the outcomes were very different.

According to one news story, some prognosticators “didn’t take into account caveats, like margins of error and undecided voters, that swung the numbers.” And “some earlier surveys were simply imprecise. They relied on automated calling and Internet surveys, cheaper methods scorned by more established pollsters.”

In other words, the polls were wrong!

Just a few days ago news media reported that former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young had been scheduled to be aboard a plane that crashed in the Bahamas but he backed out at the last moment because of concerns about weather conditions. This information was attributed to a family friend or a spokesman “who didn’t want to be named.”

However, the day after the deadly crash Young said he was not scheduled to be on that flight. “Any reports to the contrary are incorrect,” he said. His wife, Carolyn, said people knew that her husband was in the Bahamas for a conference and were not able to reach him. So they “put two and two together and got nine.”

Sometimes people just come to wrong conclusions but when they express them, others accept them as factual and true. Rumors get started and before you know it they take on a life of their own. Many people believe what they hear without any reliable third party verification or critical assessment.

I watch and listen to news reports on radio, television, and the internet. I am one of a dying breed of people who still read the daily newspaper. I learn a lot and I think I am reasonably well informed. But I realize that everything I hear and read is not always totally true.

However, there is one source that I have found to be completely reliable. I do not always understand all that it provides and sometimes I question what I read. It does not tell me everything I want or need to know and there are certainly different opinions about what some of it means. Nevertheless it has never misled me and I have never found it to be untrue. It offers an unlimited source of knowledge and guidance.

I am talking about the Bible and I commend it to you.

Jamie Jenkins

NIssan Leaf

Almost two months ago I embarked on a new venture. I began driving an electric vehicle (EV). The Nissan Leaf that I leased was not intended to replace my gasoline powered internal combustion engine (ICE) automobile. The plan was that it would be my “commuter car” and I would keep my old vehicle for long trips.

The decision to acquire an EV was reached after several weeks of research and conversations with numerous people who had already made the plunge. I considered the environmental value of a car with zero emissions and the financial implications of not having to purchase gasoline. Key to my final decision was the tax incentives that both the state and federal governments offered to encourage the use of zero and low emission vehicles.

I also considered the age and condition of the vehicle I was currently driving. My 2005 Kia Amanti has served me well but it has 156,000 miles on it. My goal is to get 200,000 miles out of it but normal wear and tear will certainly require expenses for maintenance and repair. Reducing the miles driven would most likely reduce those costs. And there are the fuel costs.

Currently there are almost 20 models of plug in cars on the market today. Several of them are hybrids that run on both gasoline and electricity. About a dozen of them are all electric. All of them offer the sweet speedy-but-silent driving experience only available from battery-to-motor power. A couple of Tesla models will get about 230-260 miles on a charge and cost approximately $80,000. The Leaf that I am driving is among the other cars from various manufacturers that get roughly 80-85 miles per charge and are priced $40-50,000 less than the Teslas.

Forbes reports that last year 55 percent of electric vehicle buyers were between 36 and 55 years old. Nearly 21 percent have an average household income of $175,000 or more. About 44 percent of EV buyers have at least one child living at home.

I do not fit the demographic described above whether you consider age, income, or family. I am not often on the cutting edge of things. I am not a serious environmentalist and live a “green” lifestyle. Nevertheless acquiring a Nissan Leaf seemed to be a good decision on all fronts.

After hearing and reading a lot of the good and the bad about EVs I concluded that the technology has progressed significantly. Considering these advances, the government tax incentives, and the cost of gasoline that I would not have to buy, a lease on an EV costs little or nothing. I know that it sounds to good to be true but it is.

I have put 1500 miles on my EV since mid-September and enjoy the quiet, comfortable, smooth ride. The Leaf is roomy and has enough power to navigate the surface streets as well as the expressways. It is very well equipped and the only reason I have to stop at the gas station is to purchase a hot dog or get a drink. I simply plug it in when I get home every day and it is ready the next morning.

Someone said, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.” Every time I start my new car I am reminded that things once thought impossible are being accomplished every day all around us. That might be the best thing about my EV automobile.

A wise man of long ago said, “Whatever has happened—that’s what will happen again; whatever has occurred—that’s what will occur again. There’s nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, CEB). That is true but often it takes a different shape and form.

Jamie Jenkins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust a few miles south of Hartwell, Georgia there is an historical marker and stone monument that declare that this spot is the “Center of the World.” When you see the marker and note the rural surroundings you wonder how that designation came to be.

If you stop and read the marker you learn that this is the spot that the Cherokee Indians called “Ah-Yeh-Li A-Lo-Hee … the center of the world to the Cherokee Indians. To this assembly ground, from which trails radiate in many directions, they came to hold their councils, to dance and worship which were to them related functions and to barter their hides, furs, and blankets for the trade goods of the white men from Augusta and other settlements. .. This site was also a noted roost in the days when the now extinct passenger pigeons migrated here in the autumn in such numbers that their weight broke the tree limbs.”

The Cherokees inhabited the mountainous region of the South long before the arrival of Europeans. Historical and archeological evidence shows that the Cherokees settled in this area many generations before the Spanish arrived in the sixteenth century. Gold was discovered in the territory in 1829 and the next year Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. On the basis of that congressional action President Andrew Jackson was authorized to negotiate treaties with Native American tribes.

The leaders of the Cherokee Nation were divided on what response they should give to the efforts to separate them from their land. Some believed either warfare or negotiation with the U.S. government was the answer but others favored removal in exchange for financial compensation. The latter group signed the Treaty of New Echota  although some say it was not legal. This “illegal” treaty was then signed by President Andrew Jackson and it passed by one vote in the U.S. Senate.

The opposing faction opposed implementation of the treaty and were forcibly removed by the military. Thousands of Cherokees died on the westward migration during the winter of 1838-1839 on what is commonly known as the Trail of Tears. The descendants of those who were removed became known as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. A smaller number of Cherokees avoided forced removal and remained in the mountains of North Carolina. They became the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Thus the historical marker in northeast Georgia is the sole reminder of dramatic changes that occurred 175 years ago. The “center of the world” for the Cherokees shifted in ways they could have never imagined.

This is a reminder that nothing is permanent. One thing that you can count on is change.

It is so easy to feel like whatever we are doing is the most important activity on the planet and wherever we are is the center of the world, if not the center of the universe. And much of the time that feeling is probably alright. At the same time I am reminded of what the Cherub Choir sang last Sunday morning, “He’s got the whole world in His hands… He’s got you and me brother/sister in His hands.”

God cares equally for all of us. While at any given moment we might think that all the world centers on us, we must not deceive ourselves to think that we are the most important and that our privileged position must be maintained. We must also be careful not to destroy others’ “center of the world” for our own gain.

The hymn writer had it right: This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget that though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.

Jamie Jenkins

Corinth is a city located in southern Greece about 50 miles from Athens. About two miles from the city a narrow isthmus forms a land bridge between the main landmass of Greece and the Peloponnesus. The isthmus is less than four miles wide and separates the Peloponnesian peninsular from the Greek mainland.

Ancient Corinth controlled the two major harbors and thus command of the trade routes between Asia and Rome. In those days small ships were often dragged across the isthmus on a paved road. Larger ships unloaded their cargo, which was then carried across the isthmus and then reloaded onto other ships.

Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Caligula all considered making a canal through the isthmus. In 67 A.D. Nero came to Corinth for a groundbreaking ceremony for a canal to be dug by Jewish prisoners, but the project was abandoned. It was not until 1881 that work was begun on the Corinth Canal and French engineers completed the project in 1893.

Today the Corinth Canal, 4 miles in length, cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. Earth cliffs flanking either side of the canal are over 200 feet high.

Before the canal was built, ships sailing between the Aegean and Adriatic had to circumnavigate the Peloponnese adding about 185 nautical miles to their journey. It saved sea-going vessels immense amounts of time as it provided a much shorter nautical route to the west from Athens.

An idea that lingered almost two centuries brought welcomed relief to sea going vessels.

Upon completion of the canal ships no longer had to off load their cargo and have it transported over land to the other port. That was wonderful news in the 19th century. However, the fact that the canal is only 70 feet wide at its base, makes it unusable to most modern ships. Only modest sized cruise ships and other smaller vessels use the canal nowadays.

The story of the Corinth Canal illustrates at least two things. It reminds us that great things sometime need time before they can be realized. It is easy to give up on an idea when obstacles prevent implementation. To get discouraged and decide it is either impossible or not worth the effort. Secondly, this story is also a reminder that life is a continuum and what works at one time might not be practical at another. Sometimes ideas become obsolete or need revision.

In either case we should not be discouraged from dreaming, planning, and doing. God is constantly creating and allowing us to share in the creative activity.

Jamie Jenkins

I heard an outstanding sermon last Sunday at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Dr. Bill Britt is an excellent preacher and this was one of his best. His topic was “A Church With Open Doors” and he emphasized the need to show hospitality and welcome strangers.

Dr. Britt repeated a story that he heard from Dr. Fred Craddock about an experience in the early days of his ministry in rural East Tennessee. The atomic energy facility, later called the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was being built in Oak Ridge. People working on the project were moving into the area and the landscape was changing.

Dr. Craddock was the pastor of a small church in Oak Ridge at that time. He suggested that the church needed to reach out to the new folks, many of whom were living in temporary housing on the hillsides of the community. The response to that suggestion was that those people were there only temporarily and they  “wouldn’t fit in” with the members of that congregation.

That sad story brought to mind a personal experience from my childhood. When I was eight years old my family moved from a rural community in south Alabama to the city. We lived just a few blocks from the heart of downtown Mobile. My parents were uneducated working class people. It is certainly accurate to say we were not affluent.

The St. Frances Methodist Church sat on the corner of St. Frances and Joachim streets. It was a church of prominence and influence in the city. As I grew into my teens I walked past that church frequently on my way to and from my home just north of that intersection. On some evenings I would see boys running around and having a good time.

I decided to join in the fun. So one of my friends and I went to the church one night when we saw the boys playing outside. We discovered that they were members of a Boy Scout Troop that met at the church and we went with them to their meeting. As we were leaving the Scout Master stopped us and said, “Boys, I think it is best that you don’t come back. You just don’t fit in here.”

That was my first and only time to attend a Boy Scout meeting until I was an adult. I learned that the Boy Scouts was an exceptional organization and that scouting was one of the outstanding programs making a positive impact in the lives of boys and young men.

I have often wondered what difference it would have made if that scout master had welcomed me and Steven instead of rejecting us.

The irony of my story is that I have been an ordained minister for over 42 years in the same denomination as the church that sponsored that scout troop. Throughout most of my adult life I have been a strong supporter of the Boy Scouts. St. Frances Methodist Church no longer exists.

And the church in Oak Ridge is now a barbeque restaurant.

Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or naked or thirsty or lonely or sick or in prison (or wanting to join a scout troop) and did not help you?” He replied, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these (those who didn’t fit in), you did not do for me.”

“Whoever has ears to listen should pay attention!” (Mark 4:23, CEB)

Jamie Jenkins

I am taking Spanish classes and realizing how little I remember from the three years of Spanish from many years ago in high school. I still recognize some words and a few phrases when I see them written of if they are spoken slowly. I have a pretty good grasp of the alphabet and numbers and I recall a little about the conjugation of verbs.

After ten lessons last spring and three during this session I am embarrassed that I do not know more. Of course, studying and practicing between classes would probably make a big difference.

In spite of my limited understanding of the language, I am sure that I have learned two expressions that will stay with me. I suspect that I will remember them for a long time because I will have the opportunity to use them frequently.

I am certain that these two expressions will not be forgotten because they are words that I have had many, many occasions to utter in English. Now that I know them in Spanish it will give me an opportunity to practice at least a little bit of this second language.

The two phrases are “mi culpa” which means “my fault” and “lo siento” which means “I am sorry.” Two good expressions to remember in any language.

Many conflicts could be resolved if someone would just say, “My fault.” It is alright to accept responsibility for mistakes when we make them. There is no disgrace in doing so. As a matter of a fact, there is dignity and integrity in acknowledging your errors of speech, action, or inaction.

An honest “Lo siento” can smooth ruffled feathers when someone is upset or offended.
“I’m sorry” not only can defuse a tense situation but it also makes the confessor feel better.

Everyone makes mistakes. Acknowledging them is healthy and helpful. And necessary in healthy human relationships.

Some of our mistakes don’t really amount to very much. But some have serious implications either for ourselves or for others. Regardless of who is impacted negatively by our errors of judgment, admitting that it is mi culpa enables us to move on. More than likely we will also be more aware of that negative behavior and less likely to repeat it- if we admit “it is my fault.”

I don’t always think before I speak and I say something that offends or injures another. I engage my mouth before my mind is in gear. And the damage is done. But there is a better chance that the damage can be repaired if I quickly recognize my mistake and express my regret. “Lo siento” can at least start the healing.

The phrase, “To err is human, to forgive is divine” is credited to the English poet Alexander Pope. That expression is in his poem An Essay on Criticism, Part II, written in 1711. Pope explains that, while anyone can make a mistake, we should aspire to do as God does, that is, show mercy and forgive the person.
Because we are human we can expect to err but we can minimize the damage by acknowledging our mistake and expressing regret. And we are never more like God than when we forgive.
Jamie Jenkins

A very wise man long ago said there is nothing new under the sun. I guess that is true in the ultimate sense. Everything is built on something that has preceded it. Every idea is an expansion or enhancement of an idea someone has already put forward. Everything future has a part of the past.

The “new” phenomenon of the electric automobile is no exception.

Who built the first electric vehicle (EV)? Well, that depends on who you ask. In 1828, Anyos Jedlik, a Hungarian created a small model car powered by his new motor. In 1834 a blacksmith from Vermont, Thomas Davenport, built a contraption which operated on a short circular electrified track. In 1835, Professor Sibrandus Stratingh of the Netherlands and his assistant Christopher Becker created a small-scale electrical car. English inventor Thomas Parker built the first practical production electric car in London in 1884.

During the 1950s and 1960s the American Big Three automakers had their own electric cars but for various reasons they faded away. Then the 21st century arrived and things changed.

The Tesla Roadster was the first production automobile to use a lithium-ion battery and the first production electric vehicle (EV) with a range greater than 200 miles per charge. Tesla is an expensive, high-end product targeted at affluent buyers. 12,700 of the Model S were sold through June 2013.

Other EVs that target buyers with more average incomes include the Chevrolet Spark, Honda Fit, Ford Focus, and Nissan Leaf with the Leaf being the most popular. The 100,000th Leaf was delivered to a student in Atlanta early in July 2013. As of August 2014 Nissan had sold more than 176,000 EVs more than all other major automakers of pure electric vehicles combined. The Leaf accounted for 130,000 of those Nissan vehicles.

Last Saturday I joined the EV family when I signed a two year lease on a Nissan Leaf SV model.

Plugging the car in rather than pulling up to the gas pump seems a bit strange but I think I will like the $4000 I will save by not buying gasoline during the next two years. The generous tax incentives that the state and federal governments give are much appreciated. Planning my in-town driving to stay within the 84 mile limit of the charge will take a little doing but I will learn.

The front wheels of the Leaf are directly powered by the electric battery and the absence of the drive train makes for a very smooth ride. Since there is no engine there will be no oil changes. The spaciousness of the interior, the navigation system, rear view camera, heated seats and steering wheel, and premium sound system enhance the experience. And it has plenty of “get up” when you need to merge into traffic on the expressway.

It has been said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but as I approach my 71st birthday I want to prove that old saying to be wrong. I am sure there are some “down sides” that I will discover along the way but every adventure has them. I plan to endure the bumps and enjoy the ride.

Jamie Jenkins

Yo-Yo Ma is one of the most famous musicians in the world. He was born in Paris in 1955. His father was “more or less Buddhist” and his mother was Protestant. He grew up as an Episcopalian.

At a young age Ma began studying violin, and later viola, before settling on the cello in 1960 at age four. His first choice was the double bass but due to its large size (eight or nine feet), he compromised and took up cello instead.

The child prodigy began performing before audiences at age five and performed for Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy when he was seven. He has played as a soloist with many major orchestras. His 75 albums have received fifteen Grammy Awards. In addition to his numerous Grammys, Yo-Yo Ma has received the National Medal of Arts, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 2014 Fred Rogers Legacy Award, of which he said, “This is perhaps the greatest honor I’ve ever received.”

Ma’s primary performance instrument is a Montagnana cello built in 1733. The cello was nicknamed by a female student who approached him after one of his classes in Salt Lake City asking if he had a nickname for his cello. He said, “No, but if I play for you, will you name it?” She chose “Petunia,” and it stuck. This cello, more than 280 years old and valued at $2.5 million, was lost in the fall of 1999 when Ma accidentally left the instrument in a taxicab in New York City. It was later recovered undamaged.

In a recent interview the world famous musician said that when he was about five years old he was asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” He replied, “I want to understand.”

I suspect that at age five most children want to understand things like:
Why does he get two cookies and I get only one?
Why do I have to go to bed before she does?
Why can’t I cross the street by myself?

From listening to Ma and from observing his musical career, it obvious that the desire to understand has not gone away but it has matured as he has aged and experienced life more fully.

On this date, September 11, I find it impossible not to think about that horrible day in 2001 when 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airliners and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Over 3,000 people were killed during the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., including more than 400 police officers and firefighters.

Reflecting on the horrendous events of 9/11 I echo Yo-Yo Ma’s desire to understand. I want to understand the mind set that could lead to that tragedy… and others that are occurring today around the world and close at home.

I want to understand how anyone could think that violence solves anything. Whether it be in Iraq or Gaza or Ferguson, Missouri, or a casino elevator in Atlantic City. I want to understand more fully how love overcomes hate and light overcomes darkness. I want to understand so I can be an agent of peace in my home, my work, and my world.

Jamie Jenkins

A long time ago someone told me that the smartest people in the world were the ones who remembered everything they could from every source they could and then forgot where they got it. That was one way of saying that the sources of knowledge are many and a wise person will recognize and value the insights from various perspectives.

I don’t consider myself to be unusually smart or wise but I do welcome input from others whether they are well known or ordinary everyday folks. I gladly receive what others offer and gratefully pass on things that I think are helpful and/or humorous.

So today I am passing on something that a friend sent me. It is a series of quotes from Andy Rooney who spent 60 years with CBS television before his death in 2011 at the age of 92. For 30 years he was behind the camera as writer and producer. The last 30 years he was “the inquisitive and cranky” commentator who closed the “60 Minutes” news programs with his essays.

Andy Rooney says I have learned that…

• the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.
• when you’re in love, it shows.
• just one person saying to me, ‘You’ve made my day!’ makes my day.
• having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.
• being kind is more important than being right.
• you should never say no to a gift from a child.
• I can always pray for someone when I don’t have the strength to help him in some other way.
• no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.
• sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.
• simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child, did wonders for me as an adult.
• life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.
• we should be glad God doesn’t give us everything we ask for.
• money doesn’t buy class.
• it’s those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.
• under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.
• to ignore the facts does not change the facts.
• when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.
• love, not time, heals all wounds.
• the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.
• everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.
• no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.
• life is tough, but I’m tougher.
• opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.
• when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.
• one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow you may have to eat them.
• a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
• when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you’re hooked for life.
• everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.
• the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

Thanks, Andy, for sharing some of the things you learned.

Jamie Jenkins

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