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.

Grand Canyon 1

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.

Marriage 5

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.

Marriage 3

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:

Marriage 6

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.

Discipline 4

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.

Disappointmemt 1

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.”

Disappointment 8
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

 

Live Life 3

Two news stories caught my attention recently. One item was in the entertainment section and the other was on the sports page. They were on the same day and at first glance had no similarities. But I saw a very important principle shared by each.

Judi Dench

The first story was an interview with Dame Judi Dench who is back on screen in “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a sequel to the surprise hit of 2011-12.

Roger Moore, writing for the Tribune News Service said, Dench, like her character Evelyn, isn’t interested in retiring although she is 80 years old. She keeps working even as she suffers from age-related macular degeneration, making it impossible for her to read scripts (she has them read to her).

Dame Judi said, “I heard a lady, a doctor, on the BBC the other day, saying ‘I cannot WAIT to retire!’ She was something like 58. And I thought, ‘What IS she going to retire to do?’ I am very, very ANTI-retirement. What DO you do with your time? What do you do with somebody elderly in your family? What do you do if you ARE that elderly person? … Best to get on with something.”

She starts each day “with a little checklist, everything I want to do that day. And if I don’t finish it, I just carry it over to the next. It’s a way to keep looking forward.”

John Jenkins

The other story was about a professional basketball player, John Jenkins of the Atlanta Hawks. He is in his third year in the NBA and he is not one of the big name “star” players. It’s been a rough road for Jenkins. After missing much of last year with back trouble that eventually required surgery, he has been in just 12 games this season and played only nine minutes. It looks like he might be traded to another team

Opportunity has knocked only a few times for John Jenkins this season. Still, when called, the Hawks shooting guard has answered. The headline for the news story was “When Duty Calls, Jenkins Is Up For It.”

Kyle Korver, who is in his 12th NBA season said of Jenkins. “The way he approaches every single day — his habits, his work ethic, dedication — even though he hasn’t gotten the opportunity that he has been hoping for, he has been unbelievable to me in just how positive he has stayed and how he has kept on working.”

“You have to step up,” Jenkins said. “At least for me, that’s what I think when I go in there. I have to play as hard as I can.” Veteran player Elton Brand said, “He could complain but he doesn’t. He just plays his role.”

Eighty year-old actress Dame Judi Dench and John Jenkins, who will have his 24th birthday tomorrow, exhibit the same attitude. One of them is in the sunset years of life and the other is in the prime of life. But they both have a positive attitude about life and their career. They are talented in different ways and each one gives it their best every day.

Live Life 2

The Psalmist prayed, “Lord, teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!” (Psalm 90:12, The Message). Dame Judi and John Jenkins are examples of people who are attempting to do that. Lord, help us all to do the same. Live well. Love a lot. Do our best. Fulfill the purpose God has for us.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

Free Will 1

Have you ever had an “Aha!’ moment? A time when something just leaps out at you and gives you a new perspective, new insight? That happened to me on a recent trip to Israel. I had been there many times but I “saw” something new on this visit.

About half way down the western side of the Dead Sea is an oasis called En Gedi.

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One of my favorite stories from history is set in this desert spot. Saul, the first king of Israel, had been rejected in favor of a young shepherd boy from Bethlehem named David. Saul in his anger pursued David to kill him and David fled for his life.

King Saul learned that David was in the wilderness near En Gedi.  So he took three thousand men and went to look for David. During the search Saul went into a cave to use the restroom, not knowing that David and his soldiers were hiding in the very back of the cave.

When David’s soldiers saw Saul they said, “Now is your chance. Your enemy has walked right in and you can do to him whatever you think best.” So David quietly crawled close to Saul without being noticed but instead of killing him, he cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Immediately David felt horrible for what he had done. David believed that God had chosen Saul as king so he would not allow his soldiers to attack the king. Saul then left the cave. David then called out to Saul to let him know that he had the opportunity to kill him but had refused to do so.

I have known that story for years. I have read it and told it many times. I know that David exercised free will in sparing Saul’s life. He could have killed Saul and been justified in doing so but he chose to let Saul live. In spite of Saul’s determined pursuit with the intention of killing him, David chose to save a life rather than take a life.

Free Will 5

Some people think that every detail of one’s life is determined by events of the past, over which a person has had no sort of control. But David’s action, or inaction,  is a clear demonstration of free will, a capacity that is unique to human beings. The ability to make choices. To do as you see fit.

In An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume thought that free will (or “liberty,” to use his term) is the “power of acting or of not acting, according to the determination of the will: that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may.… This hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to everyone who is not a prisoner and in chains.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes… and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.” We are afforded opportunities every day, many times every day, to choose how we act or react to a variety of situations. The choices we make every day determine our character.

Free Will 7

I agree with J.K. Rowling. “It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” David exhibited a respect for human life and a devotion to God when he chose to let Saul live. The decision he made in this circumstance gives real insight into his character.

Most daily decisions do not carry the same weight as the decision David made in the cave at En Gedi. But every step we make is influenced by each previous step. Each thought or deed builds upon previous ideas or actions. We may choose wrongly and later have to take corrective measures but if we are wise we will be careful in the choices we make and the actions we take.

God has not created us to be robots or puppets. We are endowed with the ability to choose. God help us to choose wisely.

Free Will 3

Jamie Jenkins

 

Note: You can read the entire story of David and Saul at En Gedi from I Samuel 24 in the Bible.

 

 

Laughter 4

There are many situations that cause us to cry. Tragic events and sad occasions cannot be avoided and the tendency for tears should not be stifled. But it is important to keep things in perspective and maintain balance. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh.

“There is a time to weep and a time to laugh.”

                                                               (Ecclesiastes 3:8)

Radio personality, Ludlow Porch (his real name was Bobby Crawford Hanson), made a distinction between a humorist and a comedian. He said that a humorist is one who sees life in a funny way while a comedian is one who tells funny stories. People with either of those gifts are extremely important. They help us to laugh.

Laughter 6

I like comedy but don’t watch a lot of the television sitcoms. One reason is because I have some hearing loss and I often miss or misunderstand some of the dialogue. Also cultural, generational, and political differences have a lot to do with humor. Recently I realized there is another compelling reason why I don’t enjoy much of the sitcoms- laugh tracks.

Canned laughter is a big negative for me whether it is on Modern Family, Black-ish, or The Big Bang Theory. I don’t need to be prompted to know when something is funny. Besides, there could not possibly be as many really funny moments as are indicated by the programmed laughter.

Laughter 9

Regardless of my dislike for sitcoms there are many people who obviously enjoy them. That is good  because laughter is good medicine. A wise man once said, “A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing…” (Prov. 17:22 AMP). Dr. Robert Segal says, “When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy.”

 

Laughter also triggers healthy physical changes in the body. Humor and laughter strengthen your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain, and protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this priceless medicine is fun, free, and easy to use. One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.

Laughter 7

My 12 year-old grandson was visiting us a few years ago and one day he said to his grandmother (my wife), “Nana, let’s laugh.” And they did. For the next several minutes they and I laughed until we were exhausted. Deep belly laughs. Take-away-your-breath laughs. Once we started it was hard to stop. When we finally quit laughing I had a sense of cleansing and wellness. It was like we had just completed an exhausting and exhilarating physical workout. It felt so good.

Are you ready? Let’s laugh!

Jamie Jenkins

 

Laughter 8

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