Did you know that

  • President Obama signed an executive order to remove the phrase “under God” from the U.S. pledge of allegiance.
  • a Republican lawmaker has proposed a saliva test to determine that poor people are actually hungry before they can use food stamps.
  • the Zika virus is being spread by genetically modified mosquitoes.
  • It has been discovered that solar panels are draining the sun of its energy
  • a Nazi submarine has been spotted in the Great Lakes.
  • Miami, Florida has introduced new texting-friendly expressway lanes complete with “safety bumpers” along the sides.
  • the United States has banned the popular game Pokemon Go.

Actually, none of the above statements are true. All of them are fabricated and false.These are just a few examples of “fake news.”

I remember a college classmate showing his innocence or ignorance by declaring, “If it wasn’t true, they wouldn’t put it in the newspaper.” With the proliferation of social media it has become so easy to spread rumors, gossip, and untruths but many people accept them as factual. I suspect my college friend would be one of those to whom the fake news websites would cater.

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According to one source as much of 60% of the links shared on social media are shared based on the title alone, with the sharer not actually reading the article itself.

Hoaxes, misinformation, and propaganda are routinely and deliberately published. They seek to mislead rather than entertain for financial gain or other reasons. One news source “described the proliferation of fake news as a form of psychological warfare.”

False information is also shared at times through respected media sources, albeit not intentional. At 7:55 PM EST last Friday the Washington Post sparked a wave of fear when it ran the headline “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.”

About an hour and a half later the utility company itself issued a formal statement rejecting the Post’s claims: “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”

Almost a full hour more the Post finally updated its article and changed the headline. Finally more than a half day later the newspaper added an editorial note at the very bottom of the article acknowledging that the earlier story was incorrect. By that time thousands of people had read and believed that Russian hackers has breached the U.S. electricity grid.

All fake news is not the result of some well-conceived conspiracy produced purposely or some news outlet failing to verify the facts. Ordinary people often post or tweet false information that is then seized on and spread through the internet. One example is 35 year-old Eric Tucker from Austin, Texas. He had about 40 followers on Twitter but during the presidential election campaign he posted that paid protesters were being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald Trump.

Mr. Tucker’s post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr. Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters. But that didn’t matter. The firestorm had already begun.

There is enough real bad news in the world without fake news causing unnecessary anxiety and harm.

In contrast to fake news or bad news, God taking on human form and becoming one of us is incredibly Good News. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, The Message).

Jamie Jenkins

 

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I am old enough to watch Jeopardy without apology or embarrassment. Alex Trebeck, the host of the television answer and question game show for 32 years, has become a friend. As I watch each episode I am sometimes surprised at what I know but more often reminded of how little I know.

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Recently one contestant won several days and amassed a pretty nice sum of money. During each show she showed little emotion. As I watched each episode I wondered why she didn’t show some disappointment when things weren’t going well or how she could keep from getting excited when she won. I was a bit critical of her demeanor. After winning six games and $103,801 I was glad another Jeopardy “champion” was named.

Then I learned Cindy Stowell’s story.

The episodes in which Cindy competed were taped in August and September of this year but her first episode did not air until December 13. Competing on Jeopardy was a life-long dream.

Cindy passed the online contestant test in early 2016. When she received an invitation to an in person interview this past summer she contacted the show’s contestant producer with this message.

“Do you have any idea how long it typically takes between an in person interview, and the taping date? I ask because I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live. The doctor’s best guess is about 6 months. If there is the chance that I’d be able to still tape episodes of Jeopardy, if I were selected, I’d like to do that and donate any winnings to … charities involved in cancer research. If it is unlikely that the turnaround time would be that quick, then I’d like to give up my try out spot to someone else.”

Learning that the 41 year old science content developer from Austin, Texas had Stage 4 cancer, she was told to attend her audition in Oklahoma City. If she qualified to compete on the show, she would be booked for a taping as soon as the show’s schedule would allow — three weeks later, August 31, 2016.

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Cindy lost her battle with cancer on December 5, eight days before her first episode aired.

When Cindy was in the hospital, Jeopardy sent her advance copies of her first three episodes, so she and her family were able to watch her competing on the show. Jeopardy also expedited Cindy’s prize money, and she received and acknowledged it before she passed.

The family released the following statement: “Cindy came on Jeopardy to play the game she loved and in doing so, she was able to make a contribution to cancer research in the hopes that no one else would have to go through what she did.”

When I learned Cindy’s story I felt bad about my feelings toward her during the shows. But it taught me a few lessons which I will try to incorporate into my life going forward.

  • Be slow to judge. I can’t always see the whole picture or know the full story..
  • Live each day like it was my last. It could be.
  • Maximize opportunities to do good.
  • Focus on what I have and can do, not what I don’t have or think I can’t do.

Jamie Jenkins

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On this first day of the New Year the words of the following hymn, written by Brian Wren, gives good guidance.

This Is A Day Of New Beginnings

 This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.

For by the life and death of Jesus,
love’s mighty Spirit, now as then,
can make for us a world of difference,
as faith and hope are born again.

Then let us, with the Spirit’s daring,
step from the past and leave behind
our disappointment, guilt, and grieving,
seeking new paths, and sure to find.

Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.

-Brian Wren, 1978

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I pray that God will bless and guide you throughout the coming year.

Jamie Jenkins

 

The second most important day of my life was December 28, 1968.* That was the day Lena and I exchanged wedding vows. Yesterday we celebrated 48 years of marriage.  She is a gift from God to me for which I am most grateful.

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It has been over 50 years since Lena and I first met. We have loved each other for more than a half century. WOW! It is amazing how love has grown over those years. We have very different personalities and talents but have learned to appreciate and complement each other. And we are still learning. With God’s help we have grown together and that process is ongoing.

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God has been so good to us since the day we pledged our lives together in that little church on Stone Street in Mobile, Alabama. “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish till death us do part.” We have had our struggles and trials but our lives have been blessed since we loaded everything we had into that 1965 Chevrolet Impala and headed to New York.

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Lena and I have three adult children. In spite of the struggles of the early years of marriage and parenting, they have grown to be wonderful adults. Each of them has wisely chosen life partners. They and our two grandchildren are priceless treasures.

Lena has sacrificed a lot as she has accompanied me on our journey from Alabama to New York, Tennessee, and Georgia. She has been my chief critic and most devoted helper and cheerleader through the nine times we have moved since our wedding day.  She shares my love for travel and has been my companion as we have explored more of this world than I ever imagined. We have more plans to “see the world” near and far as long as our health and resources last.

My spouse for two-thirds of my life, the mother of our three children and grandmother of our two grandchildren, is one of the most generous persons I know. She loves people and thrives on caring for others. She is a happy person who laughs a lot and loves to dance. She is a talented woman whose creativity is displayed in many ways. As a Master Gardener her flower garden is one of the most visible evidences of her gifts.

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The love of my life is a spiritual person who believes in a loving God and understands that what a person believes should inform and impact how they live and treat others.

She is one of the most authentic persons I know.

I am grateful to God and to Lena for the 48 years of marriage and I look forward to sharing many more years and adventures together, God willing.

Jamie Jenkins

*The most important day of my life??

Sears Restores "Merry Christmas" Signs After Protests

Retailers were already pushing Christmas merchandise before Halloween this year. Two full months before the calendar event. A month before the start of Advent for Christians.

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The four-week Christian season of Advent has been observed since at least the latter part of the 5th century. It is a period of waiting, preparation, and anticipation of the celebration oi the birth of the Promised One. That period of waiting is almost over. It is only three days until Christmas Day.

Angels announced the birth of Jesus with the greeting “peace on earth and good will to all people” 1500 years before the Church began observing the Advent Season. But even hundreds of years before that miraculous birth of the Bethlehem Babe, His coming was foreseen by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1-9).

Thomas Troeger, distinguished professor and author, used the text from Isaiah as the basis for a poem written in 1994. The Bach Choir of Pittsburg commissioned Glenn Rudolph to create a musical tribute to the victims of the attacks on American targets September 11th, 2001 and he used the text of this poem for his composition of The Dream Isaiah Saw.

 

This song captures the miracle (of the birth of Jesus). Blogger “The Barefoot Pastor” says, “In the midst of the powerful forces of this world: armies and marching orders and all the violence that is woven into our lives, God came to us as a baby to bring us peace.” (www.thebarefootpastor.blogspot.com)

The lyrics are below and you can listen to an excellent musical presentation of the song

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FqhPh72kB0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj90IkYeZaE

THE DREAM ISAIAH SAW

Lions and oxen will sleep in the hay,
leopards will join with the lambs as they play,
wolves will be pastured with cows in the glade,
blood will not darken the earth that God made.
Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
life redeemed from fang and claw.

Peace will pervade more than forest and field:
God will transfigure the violence concealed
deep in the heart and in systems of gain,
ripe for the judgment the Lord will ordain.
Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
justice purifying law.

Nature reordered to match God’s intent,
nations obeying the call to repent,
all of creation completely restored,
filled with the knowledge and love of the Lord.
Little child whose bed is straw,
take new lodgings in my heart.
Bring the dream Isaiah saw:
knowledge, wisdom, worship, awe.

Isaiah’s dream is the vision that God has for all creation. Let it be, Lord! Let it be!

Jamie Jenkins

 

Call it coincidence. Call it ironic. I say it was God’s sense of humor.

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My post last Thursday explained my difficulty with waiting. I admitted that I am an impatient person. Not a good wait-er.

On the day that post appeared one week ago, my wife and I went to a Christmas luncheon and planned to return home mid-afternoon. Before we left that morning I called my doctor. I had been having head and neck pain for about a week and wanted to know what he thought I should do about it. During the luncheon his nurse returned my call with instructions from the doctor to go to the emergency room. They might need to do some “imaging of the head” in an effort to find the problem.

Following my doctor’s recommendation, I went to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. When I arrived at 1:30 PM there were a lot of people in the waiting room who looked like they needed to be there. Unlike most of the other patients I walked in upright, showed no outward evidence of the need for emergency treatment, and was dressed like I was going to an important event.

emergency_room_591A few minutes after arriving at the emergency department I was called into the triage room where I provided them with the details of my situation. After waiting a while they called my name and I was ushered into a space enclosed by curtains where an EKG was administered, blood was drawn, and an IV was installed in my right arm. No explanation was given until I asked why this was necessary.

I was told to sit in a wheel chair and wait (for what?). In a few minutes a young man came and wheeled me through a maze of treatment rooms and down a hallway with no explanation until I asked where we were going. He replied that I was going to have a CT scan of my head. Shortly after I received that information we stopped at the end of the hallway and the man who had been pushing me disappeared into a room without a word. I sat there waiting, not knowing what was next.

Finally the man returned and pushed me into a room where there was a huge machine. He told me to remove my glasses, lie down on my back, and rest my head in a certain place. Assuming this was when he was going to complete the “imaging of my head” which my doctor had suggested, I asked and he said yes.

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After the scan I was wheeled back to the waiting room and told I would get the results in 30-45 minutes. It was three o’clock. I waited. An hour passed and my wife asked the receptionist what was happening. She was told they were waiting for a room so the doctor could talk with me. I waited. Four hours later I was ushered back to the treatment area and was given a seat in the hallway where the doctor came and reported the results of all the procedures.

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The attending physician was very pleasant and informative. She delivered the good news that all tests were negative. Nothing in the blood lab work, EKG, or CT scan showed anything abnormal. She said the cause of my headaches was most likely muscular so Extra Strength Tylenol and a couple of days of a mild muscle relaxer would probably solve the problem. Seven hours after I entered the emergency department I left for home. I had waited, not so patiently I might add, but in the end I received good news

The third week of Advent is almost over. We continue to wait in anticipation of the Coming of the Christ-Child. Ten more days of waiting until Christmas. Then comes the Good News. Christ is born in Bethlehem. It is worth the wait!

Jamie Jenkins

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I am not a good waiter. I am not talking about being employed as a server in a restaurant. Although I know that is a hard job and I have never tried it, I know I would not be good at it. No, I am not a good wait-er.

I have a hard time standing in line to purchase tickets to an event or to enter a facility. Sitting at red traffic lights or creeping along at a snail’s pace in traffic makes me crazy. It has been said that I will drive 20 minutes out of the way just to keep moving. I guess you could say that I lack patience.

I want things to happen when they are supposed to happen. Don’t delay the start of an event or a meeting because others are still on their way. Begin at the scheduled time. Get on with it. Don’t make me wait.

Because of my impatience, I need some imposed discipline. Some structure that requires me to stop and take time.

This time of the year is a challenge. Once Thanksgiving Day has passed I am ready to get on to Christmas Day. But the Christian season of Advent makes me wait and that is a good thing regardless of how hard it is.

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Advent is the period preceding the Christmas season. It begins on the Sunday nearest November 30, the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle, and covers four Sundays. In 2016 Advent began on November 27.

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The word advent, from Latin, means “the coming.” As the Christmas season has become more secular, with advertisers urging holiday gift-givers to buy and buy some more, Advent still focuses more on the observance of ancient customs. Christian families find quiet moments lighting candles in the Advent wreath, and children use Advent calendars to count the days until Christmas.

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I heard a radio commercial that stated, “Christmas brings to mind Santa Claus, Polar Bears, and Coke.” The Christian observance of Advent counters that perspective and focuses our thoughts to the real meaning of Christmas- the birth of the Christ Child and the promised return of the Messiah.

It is unknown when the period of preparation for Christmas that is now called Advent first began but it was certainly in existence from the late part of the 5th Century. Originally, it was a time when converts to Christianity readied themselves for baptism. Advent was considered a pre-Christmas season of Lent when Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting.

By the 6th century, however, Roman Christians had tied Advent to the coming of Christ. But the “coming” they had in mind was not Christ’s first coming in the manger in Bethlehem, but his second coming in the clouds as the judge of the world.

So for the last 1600 years Orthodox Christianity has observed a four week period of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christmas. We wait, as difficult as that might be, in anticipation for the coming of the Messiah who came first as the Baby of Bethlehem and will one day come again as the Victorious Lord of Life.

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As we joyfully await the coming of Christ let us pray for the needs of the church and the world. As we anticipate His coming, let us be faithful in all aspects of our lives doing those things that will show that we have turned from our sins and are following Christ.

Jamie Jenkins

 

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