toby_keith

Toby Keith, country music singer/song writer, reveals the philosophy of life for many people in one of his hits. The song. I Wanna Talk About Me, was his seventh Number One single. The opening lyrics are

We talk about your work how your boss is a jerk
We talk about your church and your head when it hurts
We talk about the troubles you’ve been having with your brother
About your daddy and your mother and your crazy ex-lover
We talk about your friends and the places that you’ve been
We talk about your skin and the dimples on your chin
The polish on your toes and the run in your hose
And God knows we’re gonna talk about your clothes
You know talking about you makes me smile
But every once in awhile

I want to talk about me
Want to talk about I
Want to talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, you, you, you usually, but occasionally
I want to talk about me

For many people life is “all about me.” The philosophy of Selfism insists that love of self is the greatest love of all. Therefore a person’s self interests trumps everything else. This is one of many faulty philosophies upon which people build their lives.

One day when Jesus was responding to questions a lawyer asks, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  What is the organizing principle around which to order my life?

Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” He was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema, the basic tenet of Judaism. Every Hebrew child is taught this from earliest childhood. Every devout Jew recites it twice every day.

This is the basic and first commandment of Jesus and of God and of life. We are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and spiritual emotions, with all the strength and vitality of our inner lives, and with all our brains and human brilliance.

Jesus continued by quoting Leviticus 19:18 saying, “A second commandment is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, Jesus suggests that we are to love our neighbor as deeply as we look out for our own welfare. To value others as much as we value ourselves. To focus on the needs of our neighbor as much as we focus on our own needs.

lovinggod

Jesus combines the two laws into one moral law. Neither law was to stand on its own; This is similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember the Golden Rule? (Matthew 7:12) “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”

To love the Lord your God with all the energy you have and to love your neighbor as yourself is at the core of Jesus’ teaching. The cross of Christ, the most important symbol of the Christian faith, has two dimensions: a vertical love to God and a horizontal love towards our neighbors.

love-others

Jesus said all the law and the prophets hang on these two basic interconnected commandments. It is as if Jesus said, “This is all Scripture in a nutshell; the whole law of human duty in a portable, pocket form.”Indeed, it is so simple that a child may understand it, so brief that all may remember it, so comprehensive as to embrace all possible cases. And from its very nature it is unchangeable. It is inconceivable that God should require from his rational creatures anything less, or in substance anything else… (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown)

love-god-love-others_wide_t

We are called to love not only those who are like us or those who “like” us. Love for neighbor is not hormonal or simply emotional. It has to be intentional and will seldom leave you in a state of ecstasy.

 

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We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4:16,20,21)

Love of God and love of neighbor is more than a statement for a bumper sticker. They are not abstract concepts and cannot be separated. They are the principle on which a person can organize their life.

Jamie Jenkins

Last week I was at the lowest point on earth. The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level making it the lowest body of water in the world. The lake, about 50 miles long and 11 miles wide, is bordered by Israel and the West Bank to the west and Jordan to the east.

Dead Sea 2

The Dead Sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. It is almost 10 times saltier than the ocean which prevents the existence of any life forms in it. It is fed by the Jordan River from the north and is over 1200 feet deep. However there is no outlet and more water evaporates from it than flows into it creating valuable minerals and salts.

Dead Sea 3

The Dead Sea has attracted visitors for thousands of years. In the Bible, it is a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world’s first health resorts (for King Herod the Great). It has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.

Lent- Jericho 2

Just north of the Dead Sea is the town of Jericho, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world and the city with the oldest known protective wall in the world. Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back 11,000 years. The city’s site provides evidence of the first development of permanent settlements and thus of the first steps toward civilization.

Lent- Jericho

According to the biblical book of Joshua, Jericho was captured from the Canaanites by Joshua but archaeologists have not found evidence of the town of Joshua. Ruins identified as such in the 1930s were later identified as older. A nearby site has revealed a Hellenistic fortress and the palace of Herod from approximately 14 BC. Stories of Jesus’ ministry in Jericho include the healing of blind Bartimaeus and his encounter with the “wee little” man, Zacchaeus. Nearby is where Jesus was tempted immediately after his baptism in the Jordan River.

Last week I and a group of folks from Atlanta ate lunch at the Temptation Restaurant. It is located near the entrance to the excavations of the biblical city of Jericho.

Over the years of visiting the Holy Land we have watched the restaurant owner’s son grow from childhood to become a young adult. As we prepared to leave after a delicious meal (and a little shopping) this young man presented my wife and other women with a bouquet of roses.

Upon returning to our hotel in Jerusalem my granddaughter inserted one of those roses into a plastic bag and sent it back to Atlanta in a note to one of our friends. Four days letter  after returning home to Atlanta, the rose was still alive and our friend passed it on to one of her friends with serious health issues.

Faith, Hope, Love

Love shared from the lowest geographical point to a very low physical and emotional point in one person’s life. “  And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13:13). Love knows no boundaries.

Jamie Jenkins

The headline caught my attention: Jenkins Standing Tall, Finding Consistency.

It was the middle of the Lenten season, a time of introspection and discipline. The theme at my church was “The Courageous Life.” I was being challenged to boldly practice my faith.

The March 6, 2016 news story had nothing to do with spirituality or me. It was a story about a professional baseball player, Tyrell Jenkins (no relation). The St. Louis Cardinals drafted this young Texan, just out of high school, in the first round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. He played four seasons in the Cardinals minor league system before they traded him to the Atlanta Braves. He was named the Braves’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year at the end of the 2015 season.

Change in delivery pays off for Braves prospect Jenkins photo

At the time I read the article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, major league baseball spring training was into its first full week and Jenkins was in camp with the Braves. He had made some adjustments in his pitching style that seemed to improve his delivery.  “He’s 6-foot-4, and he (has been) pitching like he is 5-foot-10,” Braves manager Freddi Gonzalez said. He has “straightened up” and was “going downhill” which gave “good life on his fastball.”

You do not have to understand that baseball jargon to know that the manager was pleased with what was happening. This change in form also provided more consistency in controlling where this young prospect threw his pitches. “Standing tall, finding consistency” increased the right-handed pitcher’s chances of making the big league roster.

Eight days later the Braves decided to send Jenkins to their Triple A Gwinnett Braves.

I am not a professional baseball player but this story spoke to me. For most of my life I have struggled to “stand tall” and be consistent in my personal and spiritual life. There have been many situations that have called for someone to stand up for what was right. Striving for consistency in what I say and how I act has always a challenge.

Sometimes I have succeeded. Many times I have failed. I may not make the “big league” but I have been given another chance- many times. After years of effort I am still trying to “straighten up” and live a “good life.” Failure will still be in my future but hopefully growth will also occur. In the meantime I am counting on the grace of God as I make progress toward the ultimate goal- to live in such a manner that one day the Lord will say, “Well done good and faithful servant!”

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

I woke up and looked at the clock. It is 5:00 and it is still dark. In my head I hear the words of Charles Wesley’s great hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

It is Easter morning 2016.

easter 4

I remember the words of the Gospel of John: “Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.”

Sons of men and angels say Alleluia.

She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.”

Raise your joys and triumphs high. Alleluia.Easter 2

Peter and one other disciple ran to the tomb and when they got there they saw that the grave clothes were still there but there was no body. The tomb was empty.

Easter 1

“They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.”

Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!

Mary stayed outside the tomb crying. Then Jesus appeared and spoke to her.Easter 3

“Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, ‘I’ve seen the Lord’.”

Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once He died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Later that same day while the disciples were behind closed doors Jesus to them. He offered words of peace to their fearful hearts and he empowered them to go into the world to carry on His work of forgiveness and redemption.

Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids His rise, Alleluia!
Christ hath opened paradise, Alleluia!

How could I stay in bed.

Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Foll’wing our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise, Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia!

Hail the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail the Resurrection, thou, Alleluia!

It’s Easter!

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

Today is the last day of Holy Week. We have celebrated Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Now we anticipate the Resurrection, for tomorrow is Easter Sunday.

I have not posted this week because everything I thought about seemed so shallow or had been said many times and much better than I could have. I participated in Palm Sunday six days ago, I have been in midday worship services five days this week, and a Maundy Thursday evening Communion Service. My soul has been fed and my life enriched by the different voices  and these experiences.

This morning a blog that I follow by Steve Harper popped up in my email inbox. It struck a chord with me so, rather than comment on it or try to put it in my words,  I pass it on to you. Perhaps it will be helpful as you prepare for Easter Sunday. You can access it at the link below.

https://oboedire.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/in-sight-the-necessity-of-holy-saturday/#like-6345

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

Good News 2

It is not unusual to hear of someone getting shot. Or someone robbing or killing folks as they walk the streets of their city. Or a purse snatching. Those stories have become commonplace and fill our newscasts. But I have a different story to tell you.

Good News 1

A friend had been running errands and shopping. After returning home and unloading the things she had bought she realized her purse was missing. The last time she remembered having it was at Walmart when she was loading her purchases into her automobile.

She figured she had left it in the shopping cart or perhaps had left it on the car and it fell off as she drove away. And that was about an hour ago. Her purse was probably lost for ever with her ID, credit cards, and money. Surely she would never see her purse again.

With little hope of a positive outcome my friend and her husband rushed back to the store hoping against hope. When they came to the spot where her car had been parked it was no surprise that there was no sign of her purse or its contents. Perhaps whoever found it might have thrown the purse in a nearby trash can after taking her valuables. But the trash can yielded nothing.

Good Deed 1

With hopes dwindling and dread growing they went to the customer service desk inside Walmart. With little expectation of an affirmative answer she inquired if anyone had turned in a purse in the last hour. As expected she was given a look of “you’ve got to be kidding.” However, minutes later the store employee returned from a side room with her purse AND nothing was missing.

My friend responded, “Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!” and the store clerk replied, “God is good!”

There has never been a doubt in my mind that God is good but I have not always felt so confident that people are good. There is so much badness and meanness on display in the world that it is easy for goodness to be overlooked. The attention given to violence and hatred and greed outweighs any emphasis on compassion and  integrity and honesty.

Honesty 2

One of my teachers long ago had a favorite saying: “Bad news goes around the world twice before good news gets its shoes on.” In other words, we hear and spread “bad” news much more regularly and rapidly than we tell “good” news.

The attitude demonstrated by my friend and her husband reflects the attitude of cynicism that is all too common. We have been conditioned to expect the worst. We have been taught to believe that evil is more prevalent than good. An incident like this lost purse encourages us and reminds us that there are a lot of good people in the world. Thank God!

Jamie Jenkins

 

Who has not heard of John Lennon? Paul McCartney? Ringo Starr? George Harrison? The Fab Four. The Beatles.

Read the rest of this entry »

Self Sufficiency 12

I think I am a rather low maintenance individual. You can ask my wife to be sure. I realize I cannot make it alone but I tend to think that I am an independent person for the most part. I don’t whine about my circumstances (too often) and I don’t require a lot of attention.

At this point I can see eyes rolling in some of you who are reading this. Your experience with me or your perception of me is somewhat different from the image I am projecting. I get that. No one really knows themselves fully. Our self awareness is not always on target.

I saw a cartoon the other day in which one elderly woman says to another, “I think my house is haunted. Every time I look in the mirror some old woman gets in the way so I can’t see myself.” The image we hold of ourselves is easily skewed and reality evades us. Even when we see things clearly it is easy to rationalize our weaknesses and offer excuses for our failures.

Self Sufficiency 4

Self awareness is important for good relationships and personal mental health. If we live with an illusion of who we really are, others will find it difficult and we will never realize our full potential.

 

I hope that my assessment of myself as “low maintenance” is accurate. If not, feel free to give me your perspective and I will try to learn from you so I can become all that God created me to be.

Self Sufficiency 1If I am wrong about my need for support and attention or if my feeling of self sufficiency is simply a fantasy, I need to know it so I can make necessary adjustments to become a healthy person. If I require more than I think I do from others, it will be helpful to be aware of it so I can seek out persons who can and will provide balance and wholeness.

I find fulfillment in giving to others and offering support for persons in need but I understand that giving and receiving go hand in hand. Being on the receiving end is difficult for me. I am much more comfortable when I am the one offering help. That trait is not necessarily a good one because human relationships require give and take interactions. Breathing in and breathing out.

“Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification.” -C.J.Mahaney

I am sure that I have held God and others at arm’s length with my “I can do it by myself” attitude. My over-dependence on my own abilities is a liability, not an asset.

A truly healthy individual is one who knows and properly uses their strengths and acknowledges and seeks help in their areas of weakness. An over emphasis of one’s strengths leads to egoism and narcissism. Lack of awareness of one’s weaknesses and failure to address them can result in undesirable consequences.

Self Sufficiency 8

The Apostle Paul teaches us that we are incomplete without each other. We are admonished to “pour ourselves out for each other in acts of love” and to “move rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful” (Ephesians 4).

Jesus teaches us that we are not sufficient on our own. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything” (John 15:5).

Self Sufficiency 15

Psalm 8 extols the greatness of humankind. The psalmist says that when we examine all that the Creator has made, human beings are a minute but important part of the plan with significant abilities and responsibilities. However, we are not all sufficient. We depend on God’s protection and provision. We are not alone in this earthly endeavor. John Wesley reminded us, “Best of all, God is with us.”

And we need God!

“Self-sufficiency is the enemy of salvation. If you are self-sufficient, you have no need of God. If you have no need of God, you do not seek Him. If you do not seek Him, you will not find Him.” –William Nicholson

I am who I am but I am incomplete without others and, most importantly, without God.

Jamie Jenkins

Retirement 1

I open my eyes and look at the clock beside my bed. The digital numbers are 5:55. It is still dark outside but I hear the words and the tune in my head: “O what a beautiful morning, O what a beautiful day.” It is time to get up.

But wait! I am retired. Why am I am getting out of bed before it is daylight? Because I want to, not because I have to.

Retirement 4

I prefer getting up early. Morning coffee. Quiet devotional time. Read the newspaper. Then I am ready to get on with whatever the day holds.

For many years, my alarm was set for 6:00 AM every day. I seldom set the alarm anymore. I don’t need to. I just wake up about the same time every morning. If I happen to sleep “late,” it is alright. I am retired.

I have worked most of my life starting at age nine shining shoes on the streets of Mobile, Alabama. Morning and afternoon paper routes, various jobs in grocery stores, and ending with 41 years as an ordained United Methodist minister when I retired in June 2013. I was not tired, bored, or burned out. I loved my work (most of the time). I felt like I was able to make a difference in people’s lives. There just came a time when it seemed like it was time to do something else.Retirement 3

I had no idea what I would do after I quit having specific responsibilities and expectations placed upon me. However, I knew it was time to make a transition. I believe if you are doing what you should be doing today, you will be where God wants you tomorrow. I had no real plans; nothing that I had put off until this time in my life.

Retirement means many things to different people. Some see it as an opportunity to cease from their labors. Others use this period of time to launch new careers. For me it meant a time of reduced stress and the opportunity to make more choices. Some retired people say they are busier now than when they were employed. That is not true for me. I have workaholic tendencies and have always had plenty to do. I am busy nowadays but it is “my busy.”

Retirement 5

There are occasional opportunities to preach or teach and I am grateful for those who issue those invitations. The church where my wife and I worship allows me to provide some pastoral care for the members. This has been very meaningful to me and hopefully helpful to others. There are a few other minor responsibilities that I have assumed but the buck always stops at someone else. I love to travel and share that experience with others (have passport and ready to go).

God has granted me good health and opened doors that I could never have imagined. I am grateful. It has long been my contention that folks in their “sunset years” have much to offer but are often overlooked or choose to be unavailable. The Bible tells us “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding” (Job 12:12). I am not sure how much wisdom or understanding I have and I am not looking for another “job” but I want to be useful to God and God’s people as long as I am able.

Retirement 2

Retirement is good.

Jamie Jenkins

The world is an interesting place. I am constantly surprised by strange sights and sounds. Let me share a few.

Marietta Tree Protest

Just last week the local news media ran a story about a woman camped out in a tree. Jenifer Firestone, a resident of Cross Creek Condos, used a ladder to climb a giant oak tree in an attempt to discourage Georgia Power from cutting it down. Residents were protesting the utility company’s plans to cut down some trees as a part of a large scale infrastructure project in Northwest Atlanta.

Brian McCann 1

Major League Baseball Spring Training is about to begin and the Atlanta Braves are a team I hardly recognize. There has been a wholesale dismantling of the team in the past few years. Although several major trades have been made, the one I still cannot quite comprehend occurred in December 2013 when Brian McCann was  sent to the New York Yankees. Seeing him in a Yankees uniform seems wrong.

Donald Trump

Candidates for President of the United States have been campaigning for what seems like an eternity. The rhetoric has been rather acrimonious. Some of the verbal exchanges have seemed like they came from 5th graders instead of candidates for the highest office in the land. But the strangest part of this crazy countdown to election day is the sight of billionaire entrepreneur Donald Trump as a serious contender.

rush limbaugh

I do not usually listen to talk radio but with the threat of ice or snow last week I turned my car radio on to catch the weather report. While I was waiting for Kirk Mellish’s latest predictions I heard Rush Limbaugh say, “Bill Clinton is the reason so many black men are in prison.” Strange sounds.

Duck Billed PlatypusHave you ever seen a Duck Billed Platypus. If you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor the sight of one of these unusual animals ought to give you a hunch.

Ash Wednesday 2
Last week I attended an Ash Wednesday service. With so much talk about the younger generation’s disdain for organized religion, I was surprised and pleased to see hundreds of young adults present for the imposition of ashes at the beginning of Lent.

Rice Fields 2

On a recent visit to southern Spain I was amazed to see rice fields. Just south of Valencia, between Suecca and Cullera, the countryside is covered with rice fields as far as the ey can see. That was a sight I did not expect.

Malaysia Houses of WorshipMy family spent a couple of weeks in Penang, Malaysia over the Christmas holidays in 2013. It was a fascinating experience but one of the most interesting things was to see Christian churches, Hindu and Buddhist Temples, and Moslem mosques side by side, sometimes even sharing a parking lot.

Diverging Diamond 1

Talk about a new idea. What about the new and rapidly expanding traffic control configuration called the Diverging Diamond. In the fall of 2000, Gilbert Chlewicki was a graduate student in transportation engineering when he decided he wanted to develop a new design and write a term paper on it. The result is a type of diamond interchange in which the two directions of traffic cross to the opposite side on both sides of a bridge at the freeway. It is unusual in that it requires traffic on the freeway overpass (or underpass) to briefly drive on the opposite side of the road from what is customary.

INDIA-SCIENCE-GEOLOGY-ACCIDENT

And did you hear  that for the first time in recorded history, a meteorite is reported to have killed a person? The incident happened February 6 when an object, thought to be a meteorite, hit a college campus in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The news reported that the impact killed a man and injured three others.

Tornado

I don’t know much about climate change but tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi at the same time as blizzards in the Mid West and Northeast!?

Is there any common thread to this, you ask. Is there a moral to these stories? Lessons for life? No! I just wanted to share some of the things that appeared to be out of the ordinary. Not all of the sights and sounds mentioned are “weird.” Some are just things I never thought I would see or hear. Some are simply curiosities. Others might be food for thought and conversation.

Jamie Jenkins

What strange sights and sounds have you seen or heard?

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