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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go, Give, Learn, Serve.

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

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

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

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jamie Jenkins

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

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

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

Sometimes our actions don’t match our words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jamie Jenkins

Everyone has faith- in someone or something.

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We have faith in our parents. When we are young we trust them and believe they are the wisest people around and can work miracles. During our teenage years that perspective changes but then as we reach adulthood we realize they might really know what they are talking about.

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We have faith in our spouse. Although there might be things about which we disagree, we know that he/she can be trusted to have our back. You can depend on her/him to be honest with you and tell you the truth. They will be there when the going gets tough and there is no one better than him/her with whom to share your joys and sorrow.

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If we have a healthy self-image, we have faith in ourselves. It is possible to be overly confident and become an egomaniac, but a healthy individual has a realistic assessment of their abilities.. If we are intentional about learning and growing,  we will know our capabilities and our limitations.

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We have faith in wise and intelligent people who invest themselves in their academic or professional disciplines. Their conclusions are well thought out and substantiated with reliable factual data. We invest our money, our health, our security, and much more because we trust their economic, philosophical, and scientific theories.

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We are skeptical of the folks who predict the weather but we apparently have faith in them. Otherwise why would we take an umbrella with us when they say it is going to rain. Even if it does not rain as predicted, we still trust them and the umbrella we carry the next time rain is in the forecast is ample evidence.

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I saw a wonderful example of faith the other day as I drove down Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Hundreds of people were walking down the sidewalks in front of Lenox Square Mall. When the traffic light turned red I stopped and dozens of people streamed across those eight lanes of traffic without even looking to the right or the left. Obviously they had faith that I and the other motorists were going to stop when we were supposed to.

Evidence of faith is everywhere and everyone has a measure of it. So why is it so hard for some to accept faith in God? Some of us are cynical, at best, when it comes to putting  our faith in something/someone that we cannot see or touch. Yet, we risk our lives on so many different levels to people or principles that we cannot see and do not encounter face to face.13251-trustgodlife-1200w-tn_

To deny that faith in God is a valid disposition would make sense only if we did not trust anything or anyone. To fail to recognize that faith in God is a solid principle on which to base our lives, is as ridiculous as if we did not believe that water is wet or that the sun is hot. Without faith one could not function in life. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message)

Jamie Jenkins

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The pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration of Independence says has been given to all human beings by their Creator. However, happiness is often considered elusive and fleeting. Nathaniel Hawthorne said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

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Recent research suggests that happiness can be attributed to three major sources: genes, events and values. Data suggests that if we understand them we can improve our lives and the lives of others.

According to the researchers, data on happiness remain fairly consistent. Arthur C. Brooks reports in the New York Times that every other year for four decades, roughly a third of Americans have said they’re “very happy,” and about half report being “pretty happy.” Only about 10 to 15 percent typically say they’re “not too happy.”

Although there are demographic differences that can affect the statistics, about 48 percent of our happiness is inherited from our parents. Studies further suggest that isolated events control up to 40 percent of our happiness at any given time. Social scientists say that we can control the remaining 12 percent if we pursue four basic values: faith, family, community and work.

The website www.lifehack.org offers another formula for happiness: Letting Go + Acceptance + Gratitude. This suggests that the best things you can do with your life is to “let go of what was and what will be and be okay with it, thankful for it, and appreciate it.”

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In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at University College of London have provided another formula for happiness. They created an equation that accurately predicted the happiness of over 18,000 people. Participants in the study completed certain decision making tasks. Then researchers used MRI imaging to measure their brain activity and asked them repeatedly, “How happy are you now?” This testing resulted in the following equation:

FORMULA FOR HAPPINESS

You will have to do your own research to figure out what all that means.

The suggestions based on studies that are offered above are worth considering, but I commend the following to you as a formula for happiness that I think will work.

Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, offered another formula for happiness in his sermon last Sunday.* He based it on Philippians 4:4-7 in the Bible.

  • Be gentle
  • Don’t worry about anything
  • Pray about everything
  • Be thankful for all things

Actually Rev. Britt gave only three steps. I have added one: Be gentle. The Message translates those two words in verse 5: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This formula sandwiched between “The Lord is near” and “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds” offers a simple but effective process for pursuing happiness.

Jamie Jenkins

*Rev. Britt’s sermon can be viewed at http://www.prumc.org

 

Safety officials and medical professionals report that pedestrian accidents are becoming more common leaving many people with bruises and lacerations. This phenomenon is not the result of encounters with automobiles but with other pedestrians. As more folks are walking without looking where they are going collisions occur frequently on the sidewalks and in shopping malls.

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The increased use of hand held devices have increased the likelihood that people bump into each other more often. Serious, and not so serious, injuries are on the rise. A recent three-person accident on a busy sidewalk resulted in the one of the most serious incidents. A young man playing Pokemon Go collided with a woman talking on her cell phone and a couple who were taking a selfie. Each of the injured blamed the others for being careless.

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The Washington Post recently carried a story about another fairly new health hazard. It reported that “text neck is becoming an epidemic and could wreck your spine.” According to a study published in Surgical Technology International, when the neck bends forward the weight of the human head on the cervical spine increases. This is the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone which millions of people do for hours every day.

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According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, says “the poor posture can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration, and even surgery.”

A national chain of physical therapy clinics reports that more teens than ever are complaining of “text neck,” or back and neck pain that can only be explained by the strain on the body caused by constant viewing of hand-held technology. “We have teens experiencing the same shoulder, neck and back pain usually felt by people 30 years older,” said physical therapist Megan Randich.

One of the two stories above is an exaggerated fabrication to call attention to our attachment (addiction?) to portable technology. The other is a factual report of a medical issue that is fairly new among us. You can verify the authenticity of the information on “text neck” and you can only imagine that the reported pedestrian collisions are only slightly theoretical.

The intent of this writing is not to emphasize the negative aspect of technology. My purpose is simply to accent the potential downside to the wonderful advantages of cellphones, tablets and other devices. There are many pros and cons to technology, like almost anything else. Even things that are essential to life (food, exercise, etc.) can be abused and in excess can be harmful. Rest and relaxation, meditation and introspection are as important as our physical activity and human interaction. The real issue is balance. To take advantage of the positive elements and minimize or avoid extremes.

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That which is true for physical and mental health is also valid for our spiritual life. We need a balance of belief and action- faith and works (James 2:14-17). What we believe is important but it needs to be balanced by our actions. Whether it is in our service to others or our own self-care, moderation/balance is essential if we are to lead wholesome and holy lives.

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Jamie Jenkins

Early one morning last week I walked outside my house to discover two naked ladies by my driveway and an army marching up toward the house. No I not am exaggerating or imagining. They were there for the whole world to see. However, there was no need to rush to get my camera or to call for reinforcements.

The two naked ladies were standing tall and proud among the roses alongside our driveway. These beautiful flowers have many identities. They are called Belladonna Lilies, Belladonna Amaryllis, Jersey lily, resurrection lily, magic lily, surprise lily or the March lily, depending on what part of the world you may live in.

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This gorgeous flower produces green, leafy growth that emerges in spring and dies back by mid-summer. In late summer, leafless stems produce elegant, pink flowers. The stem without leaves is why it is called “naked lady.”

As I was enjoying these beautiful naked ladies I noticed dozens of caterpillars advancing steadily up the driveway headed to the flower beds. Each one of this army of little critters is basically a “stomach with legs.” Gardening guru Walter Reeves said “their existence is dominated by the urge to eat as many leaves as possible in the shortest time period.” I felt that it was my duty to save the plants in my wife’s garden from destruction by this invading army.

Now admit it, when you saw the heading of this column, did you jump to wrong conclusions about the subject matter? Did you keep reading because you thought the topic was something other than what you discovered it to be? Were you disappointed?

In this day of sound bites and the media frenzied world we live in it is easy to get wrong impressions and be led to faulty conclusions. Words and images inform and influence us. We need to be careful that we are not manipulated by them

I remember ordering a small drink at a fast food restaurant several years ago and being told they did not have small beverages, only medium, large and extra-large. Call it whatever you wish but one of those offerings was the least-big of the three.

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Products on the supermarket shelves often claim to be “new and improved.” That designation is supposed to attract our attention and influence our buying decision. Is it really “new” and what is “improved” about it?

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Have you received a call offering you a free vacation? If you listened to the spiel, you probably learned that it might be “free” but there were some charges involved.

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There was a day when gambling was viewed by most people as an undesirable activity. We are now supposed to believe that it is a healthy and wholesome activity where people have loads of fun. The gambling establishments are now presented as entertainment venues frequented only by happy and healthy individuals. The picture that is painted has very little basis in reality but we are intrigued by the inviting images and the positive descriptions.

Jesus warned of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Things are often “dressed up” to deceive us. We must guard our minds, our hearts, and our wallets lest we become ensnared by naked ladies and invading armies.

Jamie Jenkins

I have often said that if two people always agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. That is not to suggest that any person is expendable but simply a way to express the fact that all people do not or should not think alike. No one has all the right answers.

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It is not a bad thing for people to hold different opinions. In fact, differing perspectives are healthy and helpful. Unfortunately that is not always understood and appreciated. Persons with different opinions are often ridiculed and disrespected. Expressions of disagreement are sometimes unkind and damaging.

In our current environment, civil and respectful discourse are often lacking when significant issues are the topics. Hurtful and disparaging words are frequently heard in public discourse. It seems that we are yelling at each other more than talking with one another.

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John Wesley suggested a better way than argument and debate to approach issues on which we differ. He believed if people would confer with one another they would make better choices and come to reasonable conclusions. Thus he admonished the early Methodists to engage in Christian Conferencing. Wesley expected Christian conference to shape people’s lives.

Christian conferencing is sometimes called “holy conferencing.” Steve Manskar says, “The phrase is typically employed ‘to encourage people to have polite conversation with each other, particularly around issues where people are going to disagree’.”

United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said that “holy conferencing is not limited to a specific topic or a specific venue for decision-making. It is also not a strategy to shut down conversation or stifle impassioned speech. It is a means for staying connected to each other in spite of our differences.” In a study guide she wrote to assist churches and groups she offered eight principles for constructive dialogue. I share them with you as a better way of dealing with difficult issues as well as daily affairs.

  1. Every person is a child of God. Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded that to love God is to love our neighbor. “If anyone boasts ‘I love God’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both” (1 John 4:20-21, The Message).

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  1. Listen before speaking. This means that you suspend judgment about the other. Welcome with open arms others who don’t see things the way you do. Do not focus on convincing others that you are right. Instead, listen to others so that you can understand better why they hold their opinions.
  1. Strive to understand from another’s point of view. Bishop James S. Thomas said that the truth was clear to him when he was thinking his own thoughts by himself. It was when he was in the presence of others that it all got confused! In other words, he had to confer with others to see more sides or angles or perspectives on whatever the matter was at hand.
  1. Strive to reflect accurately the views of others. To strive to express accurately others’ views is a matter of honesty, not to mention integrity. If we skew, or cast the worst light on another’s viewpoint, and give it a spin that is not accurate, then we are being dishonest.
  1. Disagree without being disagreeable. “Don’t let any foul words come out of your mouth. Only say what is helpful when it is needed for building up the community so that it benefits those who hear what you say.”  (Eph. 4:29 CEB)

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  1. Speak about issues; do not defame people. Calling people names defames them and is inflammatory. The simple moral fact is that words kill. Words that defame kill both the spirit and the reputation of others.
  1. Pray, in silence or aloud, before decisions. “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). Praying for those who disagree with us is hard to do because it challenges our prejudices, anger, and malice.
  1. Let prayer interrupt your busy-ness. Praying in the midst of our disagreement might actually bring out the best in us and for the common good! It’s always appropriate to call for prayer and also to be in an attitude of prayer in the midst of discussion about weighty, divisive, and important conversations.

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Bishop Dyck concludes her study guide by saying, “In order to confer with others who disagree with us, we need to practice our faith in ways that challenge us spiritually as well as relationally. To love God and our neighbor requires nothing less.“

Jamie Jenkins

Recent events in the United States and across the globe could easily plunge one into depression.Suicide bombings, killing of police, military unrest, continued threat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, violence of all sorts seem to be everywhere. It is not hard to see how discouragement and despair could easily reign.

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In the face of current conditions we must be diligent to guard our minds and spirits. The dark days of inhumanity compete with the light of everyday. If we give into the darkness, then evil wins.

This is not a time for a Pollyanna attitude. An unreasonably or illogically optimistic attitude is not the solution. However, as we face what seems to be our new reality we maintain a positive and hopeful perspective. The glass may be half-empty but at the same time it is also half-full.

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Optimism does not require one to deny reality no matter how harsh it may be. Unless one recognizes things as they are, at least momentarily, one cannot contribute effectively to finding the solutions to problems. Realistic optimism sees things as they really are and hopes, believes, and works to make them better.

Trouble in Mind is a blues song written by jazz pianist Richard M. Jones. The first known recording of the song was in 1924 by singer Thelma La Vizzo with Jones providing the piano accompaniment. Since then it has become a blues standard and has been recorded by many artists including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Hot Tuna, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Texas Playboys, Dinah Washington, and Hank Williams, Jr.

There have been numerous renditions by a variety of musicians. In many versions, new lyrics are added. However, most usually include the opening verse:

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause I know the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday

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In spite of the positive expression of hope in the original first verse, Janis Joplin’s version in 1963 and Nina Simone’s 1965 rendition sounded a note of desperation and hopelessness. Recently I was listening to Atlanta resident Francine Reed singing and her version communicated hope in spite of the obvious troubles of life.

If you follow the news reports you can honestly conclude that the world is a dangerous place and fear can overcome you. There are too many stories to ignore the serious implications of the climate of culture in many places. However, all forms evil and violence cannot be allowed to triumph. There is something we can do about the harshness of hatred.

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In a world where unrest and turmoil are prevalent people of faith are called to be peacemakers. In an environment of hatred and prejudice we are called to love our neighbor and even our enemies. Even as darkness hangs over us much of the time we are called to be the light in the midst of darkness. When others look for and point out the worst in others we are called to see the best in everyone and to stand against the worst that is also present.

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I am not suggesting that we ignore or deny the difficulties that are all around but our attitude and action can and will make a difference. There is no doubt that trouble is all around but we can proclaim with certainty, “I’m blue but I won’t be blue always ‘cause the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

O Lord, we praise you because you are a great and mighty God. We praise you because you are a tender and compassionate God. We praise you because you are an all knowing and wise God. We praise you because you are a God of grace and mercy.

In recent days we have witnessed the unthinkable in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis….

Every day seems to bring a new disaster. Every day people are killed because of their religion, race, gender, lifestyle, or money. Every day children lose their innocence and often their lives. Every day people die because someone chooses to drive under the influence. Life seems to have little value to so many.

With the psalmist (Ps. 13) we ask, “O Lord, how long?” How long will our enemies cause unthinkable pain and suffering? How long will injustice prevail? How long will greed and hatred wreak havoc in our world?

With the prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 1) we know, “There is strife, and conflict abounds… (It seems that your) instruction is ineffective. Justice does not endure because the wicked surround (us) … (and) Justice becomes warped.”

Lord, we confess this morning that it is easy to get discouraged and become despondent because of the evil that seems to be everywhere. But we “trust in your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

Our hearts are broken and our spirits are sad because we have experienced the “sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, (that) threaten the soul with infinite loss.” But with the hymn writer, we declare that your grace is greater than anything. In the face of so much pain and sorrow, so much grief and fear, we claim that “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace” to cover us and our world in these difficult days. Our hope is in You, O Lord.

We pray for the victims of violence and injustice everywhere. We pray for those who are responsible for such heinous crimes. We pray for our world and all people that you created.

We pray not as a ritual without meaning but we believe that authentic prayer prompts action. It affects behavior. So, Lord, help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds. Help us to think right so we can act right. Bring out the best in us. Guard us from becoming so well-adjusted to our culture that we fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix our attention on you, O Lord. Change us from the inside out so that our lives will be pleasing to you. Deep within our hearts we really do want to be like Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, for we offer it and ourselves in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*This is the Pastoral Prayer that I offered today (July 17, 2016) at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia