Headstones 3

Cemeteries are interesting places to visit. The headstones often give insight into the personality and character of the deceased. Some of them are humorous. For instance, the headstone on Margaret Daniel’s grave at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia has the following inscription: “She always said her feet were killing her but nobody believed her.”

Headstones 6

Other grave markers have religious implications. One common inscription for a Christian is “Absent from the body but present with the Lord.” Some of them express this same sentiment more creatively. For example, on a grave from the 1880’s in Nantucket, Massachusetts: “Under the sod and under the trees lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there’s only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God.”

The purpose of the grave headstone is often to praise the humble virtues of the person who has died or to remind us of the bond between the living and the dead. Many graves have markers that simply list the name of the deceased with the dates of their birth and death. The two dates are separated by a dash (-).

Headstones 7

Some say life is from B to D. From birth to death. But what is between B and D? It is a C. But what is a C? It is Choice. Our life is a matter of choices. While the two dates are significant, the in-between time is extremely important. What happens between the beginning and end of earthly life. Our choices make a difference- sometimes momentarily, sometimes eternally.

Understanding the purpose of our life is essential for a meaningful existence. Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life is the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I believe that every person is made by God and for God and until they understand that, life will never make sense.

Purpose 1

Centuries ago the leader of the Israelites counseled the people to hold God in the highest regard and serve God honestly and faithfully (Joshua 24:14). American author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. suggested that the purpose of life is “to be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe”

Although ancient Joshua and the more contemporary Vonnegut lived centuries apart and their lives were very different from each other, both provide us with sound advice. I think they both would agree with the psalmist that human beings are the crown of God’s Creation with wonderful abilities and tremendous responsibilities (Psalm 8). Og Mandino put it this way: “You are not the momentary whim of a careless creator experimenting in the laboratory of life… You were made with a purpose.”

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the ultimate goal and purpose of humankind is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever. So what happens in this life- between birth and death- is extremely important. The choices we make determine our future both now and forever.

purpose 2

Lord, help us today to choose wisely and live faithfully as children of God.

Jamie Jenkins

Aretha Franklin 1

I have enjoyed listening to Aretha Franklin sing for as long as I can remember. She is a P.K. (preacher’s kid) who grew up singing gospel music in the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where her father was the pastor. But I never expected to receive spiritual counsel from the Queen of Soul. However, last week I did.

I was driving along in my quiet, comfortable, zero emission electric car listening to a CD of Aretha’s hit songs. Although it was a love song, the lyrics gave instructions for one’s prayer life.*

I know folks who have a highly structured and disciplined routine for praying. All my Christian life I have found that to be a struggle. I pray. I pray often. But I do not have a well defined ritual that I practice.

prayer 4

The Apostle Paul instructs the Thessalonians  to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). The Common English Bible translates Paul’s words to say “pray continually.” Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message, translates Paul’s words as “pray all the time.” How do you pray all the time? Continuously? After all there is work to be done. Duties to be performed. Relationships to be maintained. How is it possible to carry on all that daily life requires and always be praying?

Aretha reminded me of what I already knew. Too often we equate prayer with a certain posture and ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are times when kneeling or bowing your head when you pray is appropriate. Religious rituals can be wonderful resources for prayer. The words of others can be great tools to use in praying. Having a quiet and private place in which to meditate is invaluable. But the circumstances of daily life does not always allow for these aids to prayer.

Prayer 1

So how do we pray continually? Aretha says (sings) “Each morning I wake up. Before I put on my make up I say a little prayer for you.” She says that as she considers her wardrobe and performs the simple act of combing her hair, she says “a little prayer” for the object of her affection. On her way to work and even when she takes her coffee break, there is opportunity to pray.

prayer 3

There needs to be time intentionally set aside for prayer- to offer our petitions and praise to God. It is certainly appropriate for collective prayer when people of faith gather in worship together. Equally important is the awareness that prayer can be offered at anytime and in any place. It is not difficult to pray continually because prayer is simply conversation with God and God is with us wherever we are and whatever we may be doing.

Thank you God. And thank you Aretha.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

*I Say a Little Prayer for You lyrics

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little pray for you
While combing my hair now
And wondering what dress to wear now
I say a little prayer for you

 

Forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever, we never will part
Oh, how I love you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

 

Writers: Hal David, Burt F. Bacharach, Burt Bacharach

Copyright: BMG Gold Songs

 

There he was in the center seat with the broadcast team. Laughing, telling stories, and reminiscing. Then he was greeted with loud cheers by the sell out crowd of over 46,000 people at the All Star Game this week. I was a little surprised.

pete rose 6

I guess I should not have been surprised. After all, this was happening in Cincinnati where Pete Rose played and coached the Cincinnati Reds baseball team for 22 years including 3 years as non-playing manager. The Hit King is a home town hero.

Pete Rose 1

Rose is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He played in 17 All Star games. And yet he remains an outcast in Major League Baseball.

Pete Rose 3

In August 1989, three years after he retired as an active player, Rose agreed to permanent ineligibility from baseball amidst accusations that he gambled on baseball games while playing for and managing the Reds, including claims that he bet on his own team. Two years later the Baseball Hall of Fame formally voted to ban him and all others on the “permanently ineligible” list from induction.

In 2004, after years of public denial, Rose admitted to betting on baseball and on, but not against, the Reds. Sports writer Tim Brown said  that he is on “his self-inflicted journey – the crimes against baseball, the cover-up, the lies, the life on a game’s periphery.”

pete rose 5

Rose, 74, received special permission from Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball, to appear on the field at the All Star Game as one of the Franchise Four selected by the Cincinnati fans. In an interview after the game Rose said, “I’m the one who screwed up, see, so I can’t get mad at anybody why I’m not where I belong or why I did this or why I did that.” Manfred is expected to meet with Rose at some point to discuss an application for reinstatement, although a date has not been set.

Many sports fans point to the recent steroid scandals and players who got what looked like only a slap on the wrist for violation of the rules. In comparison they believe that Rose has surely paid for his misdeeds and all should be forgotten.

forgiveness 2

The Bible suggests that we should be generous with forgiveness. I agree. On one occasion in the scripture people were ready to punish a woman severely for her transgressions. Jesus refused to condemn her and told her to “go and sin no more.”

Have the consequences of Pete Rose’s actions been sufficient? Should he be reinstated to baseball? What Would Jesus Do? I don’t know.

Jamie Jenkins

 

PRIDE 7

I am a proud man.

Depending on how you interpret the statement above I am either a very fortunate human being or an arrogant individual.

The Bible cautions that “pride comes before disaster and arrogance before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 CEB).” One source defines pride as ” a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” This definition allows for pride to be a positive or negative emotion, depending on what prompts the feeling. It can be self-centered or other oriented.

Wikipedia describes pride as “an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.”

PRIDE 1

Merriam Webster defines prides as “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people, a feeling that you are more important or better than other people, or a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.”

According to John Maxwell, author of many books on leadership, “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.” Christian author and speaker, Joyce Meyer, says “Pride is an independent, me-oriented spirit. It makes people arrogant, rude and hard to get along with.”

In other words,  pride can be viewed as a virtue or a vice.

PRIDE 6

Ernest Hemingway believed, “All a (person) has is pride. Sometimes you have it so much it is a sin. We have all done things for pride that we knew were impossible. We didn’t care. But a (person) must implement his pride with intelligence and care.”

With all that said, I am a proud man. It is up to you how you understand that.

PRIDE 4I am proud of my family. My wife, three adult children and their spouses, two grandchildren. I am proud of my country. I am proud to be a Christian. I am proud to be a United Methodist minister (retired).

I hope I am not “puffed up with pride”, arrogant, or obnoxious. I don’t think I am blind to imperfections. I, and all of the above mentioned of which I am proud, are not always right. I (we) are not necessarily better than any other. We are different, but not superior.

I am proud of who we are and pray that God will continue to mold and shape us until we become all that God intended for us to be.

Jamie Jenkins

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.

August 10, 2010-2 012

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.

August 10, 2010-2 007

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.

August 10, 2010-2 014

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.

IMG_3046

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. .

 

August 10, 2010-2 022

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.

Chipmunks Bagdasarian 2

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.

Chipmunks Bagdasarian 1

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.

August 10, 2010-2 012

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.

Chipmunks 2

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.

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.

IMG_3076

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 949 other followers