Fantasy Gifts 2016

Every fall the luxury retailer, Neiman Marcus, releases its Christmas Book catalog filled with holiday gift ideas. This year’s edition includes a Private Plane in Rose Gold for $1.5 million, an Exclusive Grammy Awards Experience for $500,000, and a week of luxury living at three English estates for only $700,000. For football fans there is a one-day private quarterback camp with Joe Montana for $65,000.

Fantasy Gifts 2016

One of the new offerings this year has received a lot of attention. Its price is nothing compared with the items listed above. It is collard greens “seasoned with just the right amount of spices and bacon.” The order “ships fully cooked and frozen” and arrives in four 12 ounce trays and serves 8-10 people.

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The collard greens must be gold plated. That is the only way that servings for 8-10 people could be worth $66 plus $15.50 for shipping. You can buy collard greens at the supermarket for about $2. An Atlanta restaurant owner said you could buy 20 bushels of collard greens that would make 3,000 servings for Neiman Marcus’ price. He probably would agree with the person who posted on Twitter: “Rich or not, if u pay $66 for greens, you’re 1 fry short of a happy meal.”

“The fact that Neiman Marcus is shipping collard greens lets me know it’s almost time for the Lord to return and take us all off earth,” @icanonlybemekh tweeted. The reaction is not limited to the charging nearly a 4,000 percent upcharge. One person was critical of the way Neiman Marcus seasoned their greens. “Cost aside, if you ain’t making your collards with ham hocks or smoked turkey, I got no use for you. Bacon? Nah. #gentrifiedgreens,” @jubimom wrote.

If you think it is insane to pay $81.50 for 10 servings of collard greens, then you might be surprised that Neiman Marcus’ supply was sold out in two days. What do you call that?

Jamie Jenkins

 

A religious leader prayed, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like these other people” (Luke 18:11). He went on to enumerate some of the ways he was unlike others. He was not “greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer.” Those are certainly undesirable qualities and it is alright to express gratitude to God for enabling you to avoid such practices. But the Pharisee’s prayer was one of arrogance, not humility.

Most likely if you are reading this you can rightfully acknowledge good qualities that you possess and point to behavior that is honorable. With God’s help you have avoided some of the undesirable conduct and destructive attitudes that can be observed in others. But if we are honest with ourselves we recognize that we are no better than any other human being regardless of who we are or what traits we exhibit. It is a good thing to give thanks for God’s help in shaping our character but arrogance is never appropriate.

During this holiday many of us will also pause to give thanks for the things we have that enrich our living. We know that “Every good gift … comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator” (James 1:17, Good News Translation). It is right and a good thing to give thanks to our Heavenly Father for all of our blessings.

At the same time we express our gratitude to God for the many things that enrich our living, let us be mindful of others who are not so fortunate. Whether it is good health or possessions or privilege, there are many other equally deserving people who lack those things for which we are thankful. Our thanksgiving should produce humility in us as we realize how blessed we are and lead us to discover how we can share our abundance.

On this Thanksgiving Day (and every day) “It is a good thing to give thanks to God, to proclaim God’s constant love every morning and God’s faithfulness every night.” (Psalm 92:1-2).

Happy Thanksgiving Wishes

Jamie Jenkins

 

After many months of extremely confrontational and extravagantly expensive campaigning, Donald Trump was elected yesterday to be the 45th President of the United States.

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The presidential campaign lasted almost two years. During that time pollsters provided much information and political pundits made their projections but now all speculation has ended. Promises have been made. Accusations and insinuations have flowed freely. Now the nation has made its decision. I am sure that many people are ecstatic and many others are disappointed.

What are we to do now? If “our” candidate won or lost the election, the response needs to be the same. We need to come together to make the most of the decision. The outcome of this election was determined by the person who got the most votes. Majority rules in a democratic society. That does not mean the majority is always right. The winning vote is not always an indication that the achieved results are the best. Regardless, the need now is to come together in unity around common goals and work for the common good of all people.

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A “winners and losers” attitude will not be helpful as we move forward. American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard counsels us to “Minimize friction and create harmony. You can get friction for nothing, but harmony costs courage and self-control.”

Courage and self-control lead to unity. The moment calls for people who will be bold enough to maintain a strong presence while exercising self-control in interactions with others of differing ideas. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “unity has never meant uniformity.” In other words, we don’t have to give up our deeply held beliefs and march in lock step in order to be unified.

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The words of the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians are applicable to our current situation. “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift. Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted. Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, and profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you. Wake up from your sleep. Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 4:29-5:2, The Message)

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Lord, help us to act and speak in ways that build up each other.

Jamie Jenkins

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person” but the word is often used in ways that has caused the real meaning to be lost. Rather than an expression of affection, the word is commonly used to indicate taste or enjoyment or as a synonym for lust and passion.

I love ice cream. I love my new car. I love the Atlanta Braves- even when they lose. I love spring time. I love to travel. These and other uses of the word love has diminished its significance.

Jesus said that love was the one undeniable characteristic of persons who would follow him. He said, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35, The Message)

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OK, so we are to love one another but what does that mean? What is “love?” An extensive definition is given in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth (I Corinthians 13). He presents a long list of the qualities and characteristics of love. He sets an extremely high bar when he says that love is more powerful than faith or hope.

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Among other things, I have come to understand that one significant characteristic of love is understanding acceptance. Understand and acceptance. A woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers reminded him that their law called for her to be killed by stoning and they asked his opinion of what they should do with her.

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Jesus stooped down and began writing in the sand. When the accusers continued to press him for an answer, he said, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” When they heard this, one by one they drifted away. When they had all gone, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?” Then he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go home and do not sin again.”

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Jesus understood the woman and accepted her as she was. That does not mean that he agreed with her actions or approved of her conduct. He loved her as she was even though he encouraged her to change her ways.

 

It is important to note that love and “like” are not the same. I had a college roommate who irritated me with his music and his insensitivity to others. His attitudes and actions made it difficult to like him. However, as I learned about the difficult circumstances of his life I understood him, accepted him as he was, and learned to love him.

Anais Nin, in A Literature Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, said “What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.”

 

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I am grateful that God does not wait for me to be “acceptable” before He loves me. I am glad that God loves me not because of what I do or think but in spite of my thoughts, words, and deeds.

I pray that I will be able to love others like God loves me.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

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With a hint of irritation in his voice my doctor said, “I wish you would trust my medical advice.” A month earlier he had prescribed medicine for a problem I was experiencing which had worsened. When I told him I had decided not to take the medication, his response was a polite way of saying, “Why do you pay to see me if you are not going to do what I recommend?”

I have been reasonably healthy all my life and have taken very little medication but I have seen others who have had serious reactions to some medication. After getting the prescription filled I read all the possible side effects and was frightened at the possibilities. So I decided not to take the medicine. I should not have been surprised when my condition did not improve.

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Why would anyone consult with a physician whom they did not trust? Why would one incur the expense of a doctor’s visit if you were not going to follow the advice you were given? Why pay for prescription medicine if you are not going to take it? Why return to the doctor when your condition did not improve if you had not followed instructions previously given?

I understood.

As a parent I have often wondered why a child would seek your counsel and then ignore it. Why ask for my advice if you don’t intend to take it seriously? At the same time I understand that asking for advice does not necessarily mean one is going to agree and follow the directions. Still I think the knowledge and wisdom gained from my experience should have some value. When it is not heeded, I feel a little like my doctor.

After a lifetime of serving people I am not surprised that everything I say and suggest is not accepted and acted upon. I also understand that my opinion and perspective is not always the best for every circumstance. In fact, sometimes my advice is not helpful at all.

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I suspect that God often feels like my doctor. I ask God to guide me. To help me discern the right path. To help me behave appropriately. To do what is right. Then I ignore God’s advice received either through prayer, scripture, or the counsel of others and do what I want anyway. Surely God says, “I wish you would trust me.”

However, God, like my doctor, doesn’t give up on me. Thank God (and my doctor) that I am given another chance to get it right.

Jamie Jenkins

I know it is not Thursday and you were not expecting to hear from me today but there is something I wanted to share with you. The anthem that the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church choir sang this morning struck a chord with me and I felt it was worth passing on.

The World of Our Dreams

By Jeffrey Ames

 

There is a day I long to see when we will live in perfect peace;

Where war and strife no longer reign, and kingdom of hatred cease;

Where freedom rings for every soul and love is shown to all.

 

Can you dream a world for our future? Can you dream within your heart?

 

It is a world without distress, the God of peace is there;

He wipes away all tearful eyes, He banishes every care;

The joys within this world are full, the songs are ever new.

 

Can this be the world of our future? If you dream within your heart!

Dream of a world and lift your eyes to glorious visions in the skies.

Oh, trust in faith and by His hand, we shall reach our promised land.

 

There are times in this world when it seems oppression rules;

The hopes and dreams of burdened hearts become as shattered jewels;

The hollow pain from deep within, can nothing subdue this heartache?

 

The world I dream will meet the needs of every living soul;

It reaches from the highest star, to the darkest depth below;

Within my world are days of hope, peace, harmony.

May this dream forever live, and become reality.

 

Dream a world within your heart.

 

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

I arrived in the small west Georgia town of Roopville in the summer of 1972. It would be a wonderful place for me, my wife, and our eight month old son.

In the next few months I discovered that there was no organized recreational opportunities for the children and youth of this rural area. With the help of a few committed folks in the community we changed that.

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The Roopville Athletic Association was formed. Volunteers invested many hours and their money and this loosely organized group fielded two boy’s baseball teams the next summer. With the help of a lot of local people we worked on the hard red Georgia clay playground at the Roopville Elementary School and made it into a baseball field of sorts. The contributions of entrepreneur J.W. Wood, who lived across the road from the United Methodist Church, enabled the boys to be outfitted in uniforms as nice as any other teams.

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Although the Roopville team uniforms looked as good as others, that was where the similarities ended. The boys in our area had never played organized baseball and they competed with teams in other communities that had been playing competitively for years. If you looked at the season’s won-loss record, it was ugly. The Bad News Bears looked like all-stars compared to our teams. But it was a chance for these kids to develop their athletic skills and learn a lot.

You know that they were desperate because they let me coach the 11-12 year old team. During one game we miraculously got a runner on base. Then, wonder of wonders, someone hit the ball that got past the opposing team’s center fielder allowing our player to advance to third base where I was coaching.

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As our next batter stepped in I said to the exuberant young man who had just slid safely into third, “Phil, if Tony hits the ball no matter where it goes do you think you can make it home and score?” He looked at me with a big grin on his face and replied, “I don’t know coach. I ain’t never been this far before!”

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Some days I am as bewildered as Phil. I read and hear that self-driving cars are becoming a reality. There is serious talk about establishing colonies where people will live on Mars. The globalization of the world’s societies and economies makes us interdependent and vulnerable. The recent decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union sent shock waves through economic systems worldwide. Terrorism across the globe has changed the way we live. The immigrant crisis in Europe has caused great concern everywhere. Climate change, Zika virus, and a host of other issues cause me to realize that we have never been this far before. And it can be frightening and unsettling.

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I cannot comprehend what changes will occur during the short span of years that I hope to live. And to think about what my grandchildren will experience is mind boggling. Rather than be pessimistic, I find comfort and hope in the words of a song I learned a long time ago:

Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand

But I know Who holds tomorrow and I know Who holds my hand.

There is ONE who sees the end from the beginning and I have complete confidence that God will guide and guard us through the future.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

When I did an internet search for “retirement advice” almost everything related to finances. While that is a very important part of planning for retiring, it is not all and I am certainly not the one to give guidance in that area. Having enough money for a comfortable living and a little to provide for satisfying hobbies/interests is essential to your physical and emotional well-being during your retirement years.

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Many people are diligent in financial planning for retirement and are to be commended for it. I was not one of them. Fortunately my employer made significant contributions to my pension and encouraged me to participate fully in that effort. After a lot of years I finally invested more for my future.

I am goal oriented and recognize the wisdom in planning and preparation. But when it came to considering the end of my working career, I just never gave it much (any) thought. I never thought it would happen. I have worked all my life and I found fulfillment in what I was getting paid to do. Then somewhere in the 40th year of my professional career things changed.

My change in thinking began one day when a colleague of mine expressed concern when she said, “I don’t hear you whistling anymore.” I am a whistler but I am not aware of it until someone asks, “What was that song you were whistling?” My wife tells me it is my subconscious way of expressing my emotions. Maybe.

I thought about why I had stopped whistling, I wondered if it was a way that my deep inner self was trying to tell me I needed to make a change. I was not unhappy, burned out, or angry. But maybe it was time for a change. During the next several months I pondered and prayed about it and it became clear to me that it was time for me- not to quit- but to do something else. I made that decision and transitioned into a new phase of life.

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When asked what I wanted to do after I retired my answer was consistently, “I don’t have a clue.” I just knew it was time. I have always believed that if you are doing what you should be doing today, you will be where you should be when God has something else for you to do. That is not a cop-out to justify poor or no planning. Rather it is a mindset that governs your life and work. I am convinced that everyone has a “calling” and fulfillment and contentment comes as one faithfully follows that path. It does not begin or end with retirement.

In making the decision to retire and think about this new era, I came across some suggestions that made sense to me. There are four questions in preparation for your new reality and they can equally apply to any stage of life:

  • Where do you want to go?
  • What do you want to give?
  • What do you want to learn?
  • What do you want to do?

Go, Give, Learn, Serve.

Go- There is a great big wonderful world to explore. Many beautiful places, near and far, to visit. Give- There are many places and situations where you can use your talent and experience to serve others. Learn- We are never too old to learn and there is much that will enrich our lives. Do- Individuals have different hobbies and interests that may not be fully explored or developed during the years of our “making a living.”

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I have been in retired status for a little over three years now and it has been wonderful. There have been more than ample opportunities to consider. I am taking advantage of the ability to make more choices and am attempting to remain useful and productive without much of the stress that surrounded my life for 41 years.

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I am grateful for the years of following God’s call upon my life and serving God’s people. I am glad those years are not over.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On the radio show Prairie Home Companion Garrison Keillor always ended his tales of life in Lake Wobegone by declaring that in that mythical town “all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.”

I don’t know about Lake Wobegone but my world is well populated with strong women. My wife, my daughter, my daughters-in-law, my granddaughter. My last two administrative assistants before I retired. Clergy and Laity staff at my church and others with whom I have worked. Women who have a good sense of self and are willing to step up, take responsibility, and use their talents well.

Louise Applegate Adams was one of those strong women until her death August 19, 2016, four months before her 87th birthday. She was a faithful wife, companion, and caregiver to Chuck, her husband of 63 years. She loved her family, especially her four granddaughters, her church, and her community.

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Louise loved life and lived it to the fullest. She believed that every day was a gift to be used wisely. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in the 1950s at age 27. Her zest for life was largely due to the unlikely fact that she was a cancer survivor. Every day was precious to her and presented many opportunities to invest herself for the good of others. She welcomed responsibility to serve others far more than most people. She could keep up with the Energizer Bunny as she lived into the latter part of her eighth decade.

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At her funeral her friends and family remembered Louise with words like determined, strong willed, hard-working, devoted, a lover of learning, courageous, focused. Advocating for women’s rights and giving voice to those who could not speak for themselves were tasks that Louise took on gladly. If she believed in something she was more than willing to stand up and speak up.

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Among other things, Louise’s pastor said she spoke her mind, expected you to do the same and she respected you for it even if you disagreed with her. That is a quality that is all too rare among people.

There is no shortage of people who will boldly express their views and are forceful in making their point. Louise was one of them but she gave you equal opportunity to state your position, even if it was different from hers, and did not demonize you for it. That made her different from most folks.

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We are called upon to “speak the truth in love” and sometimes that seems harsh. However, expressions of different opinions do not have to be mean spirited or demeaning to persons of other persuasions. Louise seemed to understand that. While she seemed more than willing to be the “fly in the ointment” she did not “take her ball and go home” if things didn’t go her way. While she hoped to convince you to see things her way she did not desire to “defeat” you. She understood that making an argument was not the same as having an argument.

Many people avoid conflict and just want everyone to get along. This is an appropriate attitude but it does not require everybody to share the same perspective. It is possible to be respectful and appreciative of others with whom you disagree. That was something Louise realized and practiced.

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Louise was not a peace lover. She was a peace maker. And that means working together even when we disagree. Sometimes I will be right and sometimes you will be right. Sometimes both of us are right and sometimes we are both wrong. But if we continue to be respectful in our relationship and engage in civil dialogue, we will most often come to wise and constructive decisions.

Thank God for the spirit of Louise Adams and the women in which it lives on.

Jamie Jenkins

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I enjoyed sports as a player in my earlier years and have always enjoyed as a spectator. I grew up in Mobile, Alabama and during my teenage years I lived near Baltimore Park, a city recreation center. I played on a baseball team there. Our team’s Coach Campbell also played in a softball league at the park on Tuesday nights and I would often go to watch him play.

If Coach Campbell booted a ground ball, made a bad throw, or struck out, I would remind him of it the next day at my team’s practice. This was not received kindly and I can still see his face grow red as he would say, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say!

Many years later in a church board meeting there was discussion about whether we should continue to have worship services on Sunday night. After many comments the chairman called for a vote. When asked for those who believed we should continue Sunday evening services almost every hand in the room went up. Then the chairman asked another question: “If we continue Sunday evening services, who will attend?” This time there were far fewer hands raised.

Sometimes our actions don’t match our words.

One day Jesus told a parable of a farmer who had two sons (Matthew 21:28-32). The farmer went to the first son and said, “Go work in the vineyard today.” The son was somewhat rebellious and replied, “I will not.”  The father was disappointed but did not say anything else.

The farmer then went to his second son and asked if he would help out in the vineyard today. The second son said, “Yes sir, I will go.” With the assurance that the second son would help out, the farmer went to work in another part of the vineyard.

Things didn’t turn out quite like the farmer expected. The first son who answered, “I will not,” changed his mind and spent the entire day working in the vineyard. The second son who said, “Yes sir, I will go,” also had a change of mind. The second son, the one who promised to help his father, did not.

Jesus asked the religious leaders, “Which of the two did the will of the father?” “The first,” they answered.

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Best-selling author, Steven Covey, writes about the time he was a professor at the Marriott School of Management. One of the young executives asked him how he was doing in class. As they talked for a while Covey confronted him directly. “You didn’t come in to find out how you are doing in class,” he said. “You came in to see how I think you are doing. You know how you are doing in the class far better than I do, don’t you?”

The young executive said he knew how he was doing in class. He admitted that he was just trying to get by. He gave a host of reasons and excuses for cramming and taking short cuts. The young man came in to see if it was working. Reflecting on this incident Covey writes, “If people play roles and pretend long enough, giving in to their vanity and pride, they will eventually deceive themselves.”

Such was the case of the religious officials that Jesus was talking to. They had been using all the right words, going through all the ceremonies. They had God on their lips but not in their hearts. They had said “yes” to God but God was not real to them. Sometimes we go through the motions, not really meaning what we say. Empty words. Sometimes we are like them- our actions don’t match our words.

It is easy to sing the song, “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. Over mountain or plain or sea. I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.” It is another thing to really do what we say we will do.

God expects us not only to “talk the talk,” we are also expected to “walk the walk.” Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.

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We are called not just to say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.” But to actually “go” where God sends us. Not just to say, “I will” but to actually “do” what we say we will do. Not just give lip service but to actually practice what we preach.

 

Jamie Jenkins