My wife is an artist. She does not use brushes and paint, pen and paper, chalk, needle, or camera. She uses spades and flowers. Our yard is her canvas. She loves to dig in the dirt to plant new and move old plants.

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My Master Gardener spouse does not trim shrubs or cut grass, although she can and she has. These chores are left to the yardman. Recently she expressed concern that the tasks were too much for him in the scorching temperatures and high humidity. I appreciated her sensitivity to his situation but assured her that he was alright and could accomplish his work with little difficulty.

I am thankful that we have a small yard. Still it requires a lot of work and it is pretty costly to maintain it properly and retain the beautiful environment that has been created. If it was much bigger, the work load might be too much and the expense to high but for now it is manageable, even for the aging yardman.

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There are 85 houses in our subdivision but none of them have a garden like ours. We live in a tree lined neighborhood and the homes are relatively neatly landscaped with low maintenance shrubs and trees. The lawns are all pretty well kept most of the time but most, if not all, of the neighbors have a lawn service- except us. My wife is the gardener. I am the yardman. She has the knowledge and the creative eye. I take care of the menial tasks of grass cutting and shrub trimming.

I am grateful that I am still healthy enough to mow the grass weekly and occasionally give the shrubbery a trim. The yard is small and the work load is manageable. Besides, my wife says the chore is saving my life by keeping me somewhat physically active.

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I don’t enjoy the yard work but I don’t really mind it either At times it is an inconvenience but it is not a burden. On the other hand, Lena loves to work in her garden and I am grateful for what she has created. Every time I pull into our driveway and view the landscaping I am appreciative of her dedication and skill. As I sit on the patio watching the birds and enjoying the beautifully serene setting of our back yard I thank God for her love for gardening and her hard work.

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Lena and I have been married for 46 1/2 years and I hope to have many more anniversary celebrations with her. So if the minimal work that I put into our yard contributes to longevity, so be it. And if her long hours of hard work in the heat and humidity bring her satisfaction, that is good. I know that there will come a time when we will not be able to maintain our current level of physical activity (as minimal as mine is) but until then I am thankful to God for our health and to Lena for her labor of love.

God created the first garden and then entrusted it to human beings. I don’t know God’s assessment of their care for this new creation but I am sure that God is pleased with the garden my wife has created. .

 

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For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.*

Jamie Jenkins

 

* For the Beauty of the Earth- Text: Folliot S. Pierpoint/Music: Conrad Kocher

I have just returned from Washington, DC. Along with my grandchildren (and their parents), my wife and I spent one day in the area at Mount Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington. The mansion built by the first president of the United States is situated on the banks of the Potomac River on land that had been in his family since 1674.

When George Washington’s ancestors acquired the estate it was known as Little Hunting Creek Plantation, after the nearby Little Hunting Creek. Washington’s older half-brother, Lawrence Washington inherited the 5,000 acre estate and changed its name to Mount Vernon in honor of Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, famed for the War of Jenkins’ Ear. When George Washington inherited the property he retained the name.

George Washington came into possession of the estate in 1754. The mansion that sits on the property now was built in stages between 1758 and 1778. It occupies the site of an earlier, smaller house built by George Washington’s father Augustine.  Mount Vernon was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and is today listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Among the many things I learned during the enjoyable visit was that sometime before the age of 16, George Washington transcribed Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation. The list of 110 principles by which, supposedly, proper decent people must abide, comes from a French etiquette manual written by Jesuits in 1595. As a handwriting exercise Washington copied word-for-word Francis Hawkins’ translation which was published in England about 1640. Some of the principles seem dated but others are very appropriate guidelines for social interaction today. Below are a few that I believe are timeless (original language and spelling is retained):

-Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.

-To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who ’tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.

-Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.

-When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.

-Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.

-Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparagement of any.

-Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.

-Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy.

-Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof.

-Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.

-Undertake not what you cannot perform but be carefull to keep your promise.

-When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & wt. Reverence.

-Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.

-Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience.

Jamie Jenkins

Chipmunks

In 1958  a novelty record featured three singing anthropomorphic chipmunks. Within three weeks of being released The Chipmunk Song had sold over 2.5 million copies, making it the fastest selling record of 1958. It hit #1 on December 22, 1958, and stayed there for 4 weeks. This is the last Christmas song to hit #1 in the US. A remixed version of this song returned to the American Hot 100 in the first chart of 2008 after a gap of 45 years, thanks to the box office success of the film Alvin And The Chipmunks.

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The song was written and produced by Ross Bagdasarian. The inspiration came to him from his youngest son, Adam, who in September would regularly ask if it was Christmas yet. He figured if his son was asking that question, other kids probably were too.

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Bagdasarian, whose stage name was David Seville, performed all the voices of the group by speeding up the playback to create high-pitched voices. That process resulted in two Grammy Awards for engineering. After his death in 1972, the characters’ voices were performed by his son Ross Bagdasarian, Jr and Ross. Jr.’s wife, Janice Karman, in the subsequent incarnations of the 1980s and 1990s.

The singing chipmunks were mischievous leader Alvin, brainy Simon, and chubby, impressionable Theodore- all named after the executives of their original record label. The trio is managed by their human adoptive father, David (Dave) Seville. The characters became a success, and the singing Chipmunks and their manager were given life in several animated cartoon productions and films.

I have had the privilege of having my grandchildren (and their parents) visiting with us for over two months as they transition from living in Asia to their next destination in southern Spain. We have spent a good bit of time visiting and eating meals on our patio and looking out on the beautifully landscaped back yard created by my wife.

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We have enjoyed the cardinals, finches, doves, and other birds as they play and sing in the tree and around the feeders. As we have watched the birds I have observed that Alvin, Simon, and Theodore also live in our back yard. At least the chipmunks that scurry around look a lot like them.

These cute little creatures scamper around and scavenge for food everywhere. They are a joy to watch most of the time.

The birds are attracted by the feeders that we have placed in our yard and a couple of years ago I discovered bird feeders that stymied the squirrels. They finally gave up on their efforts to rob the birds of their food but last week I discovered that the chipmunks have found a way.

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As I sat on the patio the birds were fluttering all over and feasting on the food I had provided. The chipmunks were playfully chasing each other along the ground and eating the seeds that the birds dropped. Simon, Theodore, ALVIN! One of them had climbed onto the bird feeder and was hanging upside down in such a way that his weight did not close the feeding openings. He was enjoying the safflower seeds until I yelled at him and he scurried away.

After a few times of scaring “Alvin” away when he tried to eat the bird’s food, I decided to leave him alone. After all what he ate was a small price for the enjoyment he and his friends provided as they entertained us with their playfulness. I am happy to have the chipmunks and I am willing to pay the price.

A lot of life is that way but often I forget that the good times come with a price.

Jamie Jenkins

In my travels many places fail to live up to their publicity. They look and sound good on their website or in their brochure but don’t measure up when you see them in person. One place that lives up to your expectations is the Grand Canyon.

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I have just returned from my second visit to this massive National Park in Arizona.  The last time I was there was almost 25 years ago. The only way I know how to describe the views from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is WOW! And that does not begin to describe the awesome beauty of this 277 mile gorge rising above the Colorado River. The colors, shapes, and textures of the rock formations are overwhelming.

Unless you fly into the very small Grand Canyon Airport, it is a long drive to get anywhere. We used Flagstaff as our base for seeing many of the sites of the area. The ninety minute, 80 mile drive up Highway 89  and 64 from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon was less than spectacular. However, the first view of the canyon from the tower at the East Entrance made the drive worthwhile.

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We had to go through a lot of nothing to get to the breathtaking beauty. I think much of life is like that. Every experience cannot be exceptional. Every moment cannot be exhilarating. There is a real value to the drudgery of the routine and ordinary.

I am a fan of college and professional sports. The beauty of a well executed double play in baseball of a behind-the-back-without-looking pass in basketball is beautiful to see. They are the results of many hours of hard work and practice. Pushing through the drills and sticking to the routines of physical conditioning. Athletes have to go through a lot of nothing to get to the beauty of performance.

double play

The same thing is true for most, if not all of life. The principle of no pain, no gain has applications in just about every aspect of living.

I remember when my son resisted doing the “busy work” assignments in 3rd grade. I told him then what I am sure he has now learned. There is a “lot of nothing” required to achieve any worthwhile result.

It has been said that the devil is in the details. While that may be true, the details may not be exciting but good and enjoyable results occur because of them. Planning a trip, a surprise birthday party, or some job related event is often boring and exhausting. And they are never noticed… until they are not done.

Jamie Jenkins

People who know me know that I like to travel. I often say that if you will pay my way I will go anywhere. I think that travel provides a person with a real education and a realistic view of the world.

Many people have traveled much more than I but the opportunities that have been afforded me have been plentiful. Over the past 35 years I have covered much of the United States and have made more than two dozen trips to Israel. I have been privileged to travel to 27 other countries. I have seen a lot of the world, but there is still a lot that I hope to see.

When I am about to leave on another journey instead of hearing “Bon voyage,” people most often wish me “safe travels.” I am often asked whether I am concerned for my safety. I always reply that I am more likely to encounter violence in my hometown than anywhere I will be going, including the Middle East.

Rick Steves is a travel expert who has written 30 travel books, hosts TV and radio shows, and has a thriving tour business. I agree with what he wrote in an article for the LA Times in November 2014. He said, “It seems that the most fearful people in our country are those who don’t travel and are metaphorically barricaded in America.”

Steves expressed his belief that “fear is for people who don’t get out much. These people don’t see the world firsthand, so their opinions end up being shaped by sensationalistic media coverage geared toward selling ads.”

He also suggested that the news media also contribute to the fear factor. Instead of an event being news, it’s a “crisis.” Because the 24/7 news channels have so much time to fill they “have to amp up the shrillness to make recycled news exciting enough to watch.”

This travel expert worries “If we all stayed home and built more walls and fewer bridges between us and the rest of the world, eventually we would have something to actually be fearful of.”

Travel helps you realize that we Americans are just 300 million out of 7 billion people in the world and it is good for us to engage with the other 96% of humanity. When we do we begin to realize that all people everywhere are more alike than different. Most of us have the same hopes, dreams, and concerns. As we engage people from other cultures we are more likely to have empathy for our fellow human beings and value them as brothers and sisters in this human family.

God created the cosmos and everything in it (Psalm 89:11). Thank God for sharing the wonderful creation and all its creatures with us.

Jamie Jenkins

This weekend is a very special time for me and my family. The youngest child is getting married. We are excited to welcome another fabulous young woman into our family which currently includes two other children, a wonderful son-in-law and daughter-in-law, and two exceptional grandchildren.

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As our son and future daughter-in-law embark on this new adventure as husband and wife, I covet for them the happiness and fulfillment that I have found with my wife of over forty-six years. Next to Jesus, my wife is the best thing that ever happened to me and I trust that it will be the same for them.

I don’t profess to be an expert on marriage but experience and the wisdom of others has taught me a few things about living and loving. One of the most important principles of marital success is to realize that marriage is not a 50/50 proposition.  The traditional wedding ceremony speaks of “two becoming one.” One might assume that means each partner gives 50% and together that makes a whole and healthy marriage. But marriage is not about mathematics. It is only when each partner gives 100% that fulfillment and completeness as a couple is realized.

Marriage 1

Love that brings two people to the place where they want to commit themselves to each other forever is powerful. But staying in love requires the ability to be adaptable and the willingness to sacrifice.

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Love is the glue that holds a marriage together and there are a lot of sentimental and poetic ways to describe love. One of the best examples I know was offered long ago:

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Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant,  it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints,  it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. Love never gives up.

That is good counsel not only to Jonas and Natalia but to people everywhere.

Jamie Jenkins

When he was 12 years old one of my children told me and his mother that he was passionate about playing the violin. My wife replied, “If you were passionate, we would not have to make you practice.”

Just to like something and even to get some satisfaction from it does not equate into passion. But when an activity, person, or thing elicits intense emotions or strong feelings from you, it may be appropriate to say you feel passionate for it.

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Felling passionate can be a good thing but passion alone will not lead to the desired results. Discipline is the bridge between desire and fulfillment. Discipline- an activity, exercise, or regimen- is necessary to move from goals to accomplishment. Desire and discipline go hand in hand.

Gary Ryan Blair said, “Discipline is based on pride, on meticulous attention to details, and on mutual respect and confidence. Discipline must be a habit so ingrained that it is stronger than the excitement of the goal or the fear of failure.”

Dr. Sherwood Elliot Wirt was a long time associate of Billy Graham and the founding editor of the evangelist’s Decision Magazine. Before his death in 2001 at the age of 97, he wrote more than 40 books and had a tremendous impact on the lives and careers of multitudes of writers.

Dr. Wirt was a guest lecturer in one of my college English classes. That was many years ago but I still remember his reply to a question of one of my classmates. The student asked, “Where do you begin to become a writer? ” His reply was, “Get a piece of paper and a pen (I told you it was a long time ago) and start writing.”

One element of Dr. Wirt’s response was that you have to do more that want to do something. You actually have to do it. That takes a certain amount of discipline and if you want to succeed at any task you have to work at it.

Kushandwizdom - Inspiring picture quotes | via Tumblr

Near the end of his life Jesus had a conversation with his closest friends. He cautioned them that being his disciple would be difficult and could be costly. When excuses were given for not following him at the moment, he replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back” was ready to follow him. In other words, there is a price to pay for anything that is important. Discipline and sacrifice are required.

This year is the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music movie. Julie Andrews, one of the stars of the movie, said in a recent interview, “Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”

Zig Ziglar Discipline quotes | Inspiration Boost | Inspiration Boost

One study a couple of years ago by Wilhelm Hoffman, found that well disciplined people are happier than those without. M. Scott Peck agreed when he said, “Discipline is wisdom and vice versa.”

Lord help us to discipline ourselves so we can complete the tasks and achieve the goals that are good for us and for all humanity.

Jamie Jenkins

Disappointment 3

Everyone has experienced disappointment. You order that special dessert at your favorite restaurant and the waiter tells you they do not have any more. You buy a ticket for a much hyped blockbuster movie but when the credits roll at the end you wonder why it was so highly acclaimed. Or your team makes it to the finals but lose big in the championship game.

Alexander Pope said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”  However, the reality is that life has a way of presenting you with “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.” There are many occasions when our expectations are not met and we feel let down.

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But have you ever been really disappointed?

Major League Baseball’s regular season began last Monday. Spring training had ended and teams had settled on their 25 player opening day rosters. Then overnight things changed for our hometown Atlanta Braves. On Sunday night the Braves surprised everybody by trading away Craig Kimbrel, one of the most highly regarded pitchers in the game, along with Melvin Upton, Jr., a player that had failed to live up to expectations and was still owed $48 million.

In return for Kimbrel and Upton, the Braves got two outfielders, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quinten, and a couple of other prospects. Maybin was told to catch a flight from San Diego to be on hand for the Braves season opener in Miami on Monday. Quinten was told that was necessary for him. Have you ever had that level of disappointment? It is speculated that the Braves will probably just pay him the $8 salary but have no intention of playing him. I suppose that would help to offset the disappointment.

But there is another wrinkle to this situation. On Sunday night Braves coach Fredi Gonzales called Pedro Ciriano into his office to tell him he had made the opening day big league roster “unless something crazy happens”. Ciriano has been around professional baseball for several years but has spent almost all of that time in the minor leagues. When Gonzales gave him the good news, he wept tears of joy.

Pedro Ciriaco

Well, the Kimbrell trade was “something crazy” and just twelve hours after the good news Gonzales had to break the bad news to Ciriano. He would not be on the roster because they had to make room for Maybin who came as a part of the deal. Talk about disappointment! Ciriano could benefit from the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau who counseled, “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”

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Last week was Holy Week in the Christian Church. One of the stories that we remember during those eventful few days is the sad account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent suicide. The sequel to that story is told in the first chapter of the Book of the Acts in the Bible. The 11 remaining inner circle of Jesus’ followers selected a successor to Judas. They narrowed the field to two, Matthias and Justus, and then selected Matthias. I imagine Justus was very disappointed to miss out on this wonderful opportunity to be on the “inside” with these men who would make such a difference in the world.

Countless examples of disappointing situations could be provided. Everyone who reads this could probably offer several personal experiences of disappointment. Such experiences are a normal part of life. Eliza Tabor Stephenson suggests that

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”

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Someone has said that disappointments are often God’s appointments. Lord, help us to learn from the times that our expectations are not met and grow stronger because of them.

Jamie Jenkins

I have just returned from a trip to Israel. It is not my first time to visit the place that is, for a third of humanity, literally holy land. Israel is the crossroads for three great religions. Consequently the Holy Land has been coveted and fought over for centuries.

My first visit to Israel was in 1981 and some people cautioned me that it was an unsafe destination. I spoke with one man who had journeyed to the region every year for the previous 22 years. He told me, “Every time I am getting ready to go someone tells me I am crazy and will get myself killed.”

Since that conversation 34 years ago I have heard the same thing each of the more than two dozen times I have made the pilgrimage to the land of the Bible. I am sure I will hear the same thing next year when I return. But I have never felt uncomfortable or at risk and hundreds (maybe thousands) of others have told me the same.

Travel guru, Rick Steves said, “If you just read the headlines, a visit to Israel can be scary. For 1500 years Christians, Jews and Muslims have struggled over the Holy Land. The presence of barbed wire and armed soldiers is really nothing new. Invasions and political turmoil have been the norm now for 4000 years. In our generation, terrorists have left their ugly mark. But tourists or popular tourist centers have never been targeted. While there are still problems to be worked out, no angry group is angry at tourists.”

To be sure there is tension in the Middle East, not just in Israel, but many thousands of people visit the Holy Land (Israel, Jordan, Egypt) every year. While you hear a lot from the news media about violence in Israel, you never hear of tourists being the target.

Perception is reality but sometimes it is a false reality. While the media paints a picture of horror and hostility between the peoples of Israel, I have witnessed ordinary people- Palestians and Israelis, Muslims, Christians, and Jews- living together in a frustrating qaundry. And the request from persons of various ethnic and religious backgrounds is the same, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

An acquaintance recently went with his wife and four children to Israel and Jordan over the Christmas holidays. His reflections on the experience included the following: “The politicians and fanatics, like in most cases, scream the loudest, but yet again, the silent majority needs to be heard more. We are all just about the same people-wanting to eat, drink, have shelter and be protected and ensure our children have a better life than we did.”

One of my fellow travelers from the most recent visit to Israel said, ” Everything we did brought me back to my strong Christian heritage and upbringing and has rekindled fires within me that, over the years, had dwindled somewhat.” Another called it “a trip of a lifetime.” Comments like these cause me to want to return to the Holy Land and take others with me.

Today is Holy Thursday, observed by Christians on the fifth day of the week leading up to Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Tomorrow is Good Friday when we remember the death of Jesus who we call the Messiah. Then on Sunday Christians all over the world will celebrate the victory of life over death as we remember the Resurrection of Jesus.

One of those who just returned from the Holy Land said, “Easter will be even more incredible after our experience.” Yes, it will!

Jamie Jenkins

What are you giving up for Lent? Whether you are a religious person or not, the practice of fasting can help you to become a healthier and happier you.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that may be practiced at any time and generally means abstaining from food or drink. It is especially associated with special religious observances.  Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and Taoism all advocate some form of fasting—from short periods to days, and even an entire month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (June 17-July 17, 2015), is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse. In some interpretations, Muslims also refrain from other behavior that could be perceived as sinful, such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, backbiting, and procrastination.

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Christians observe Lent, forty days before Easter (February 18-April 4, 2015), and it is intended to assist in growing closer to God. The Upper Room says, “Some Christians use the whole forty days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes, or meat as a way to purify their bodies and their lives.” It is suggested that one might give up one meal a day and use that time to pray instead.

Fasting

 

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

Researchers from the University of Florida did a three-year study that concluded that fasting caused the gene related to anti-aging in our cells to increase, which can lead to longevity. The study also indicated that fasting could strengthen the body’s natural preventive processes that protect against future diseases. (read a full report on the study at http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/09/fasting-diet-study-lent).

Fasting can, however, refer more broadly to “giving up” anything at any time. Ideas include giving up “some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation.” The idea is to “fast” in order to focus on God.

FASTING 2 There are a lot of things that a person might “give up.” Things that clutter the calendar and complicate life. Resentment, anger, and bitterness are destructive emotions that are like cancer that eat away at a person from the inside. Why not give them up?

Pessimism and cynicism prevents one from seeing the bright and beautiful in every day life. Finding fault with others leads one to de-value the worth of persons and gets in the way of seeing the good that God has invested in every individual. Give them up.

Although you might have made mistakes, beating yourself up constantly does no good for you or anyone else. An adversarial posture as one’s usual attitude only works against you. Gossip and criticism may seem harmless but they can do serious damage. These attitudes and actions diminish yourself and others. Give them up.

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We are in the middle of the season of Lent but whether you “fast” from negative behaviors such as those mentioned above- and there are many others- for religious purposes or not, you will become a healthier and happier person when you give them up. After all that is God’s intentions for you (John 10:10).

 

Jamie Jenkins

 

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