I have become increasingly concerned over the “Us vs. Them” attitude that I see and hear regularly. Too many groups and individuals operate on the basis that anything different is bad. “We” must oppose “them.”  More than that, we see “them” as the enemies of “us” that must be stopped or destroyed.

I understand that there are people who espouse harmful philosophies and I know that all ideas are not for the benefit of the larger community. However, I find it impossible to believe that “we” are always right and “they” are always wrong. Whoever the “we” or “they” are.

There are many people who subscribe to the “Us vs. Them” approach to all matters. I am not one of them.

Some folks see anyone whose culture or language as different and probably dangerous. I am not one of them.

Many people believe that everybody is out for themselves. Wanting something for nothing. I am not one of them

Many politicians and John/Jane Does propose that Red/Blue States have the right perspective on all political issues and the other will lead the country to ruin. I am not one of them.

The attitude of a lot of people is that if your skin color is different from mine, I have to keep an eye on you. I am not one of them.

According to conversations I hear and read from individuals in leadership as well as common ordinary citizens, it seems that it is alright to use demeaning terminology and derogatory words to describe others. I am not one of them.

It is common for people to assert that anyone who holds a different position on religion, politics, social issues or virtually anything is your enemy. I am not one of them.

Us vs. Them

Sports fans often depict fans of an opposing team as bad people to be avoided. I am not one of them.

Someone always wins and someone always loses. That is the attitude that I sense in many people. I am not one of them.

Old Way and New Way signs, Life change conceptual image

I know people who always see change as bad. It is better to keep things the way they are. I am not one of them.

There are Christians who believe that they alone interpret the Scriptures correctly and know the mind of God  I am not one of them

Jeff Chandler, writing about working relationships says, “On the surface, we discuss compassion, empathy, and understanding but down at a personal level, there are grudges, alliances, and interactions that are the complete opposite. There is a growing contingency of US vs THEM which doesn’t seem like a good way (to work together).”

“Unless we are very, very careful,” wrote psychologist-turned-artist Anne Truitt, “we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves.”

Loving and gracious God, help us to see our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters and treat everyone with respect. Enable us to understand that “we” might be wrong and “they” might be right on some things. Help us to work side by side with each other to  “guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.” So that others “may know we are Christians by our love.”

Jamie Jenkins

Perhaps you have enjoyed dinner and a movie at one of the places where a restaurant and movie theater combined in one facility. Or maybe you have been to a “dinner theater” (sometimes called dinner and a show) that combines a restaurant-style meal with a staged play or musical.

If you are a baseball fan in Atlanta you might want to check out the Chop House at the Braves new Sun Trust Park. Situated in right field of the stadium, it has three levels, including two party decks and a new field level which can be turned into a large group area directly behind right field. A full menu affords many choices of food while you enjoy the hometown team win the game (at least that is what you hope for).

Waffle House photo of: The Sign

Although each of the aforementioned experiences may be good, I have a better, and more economical  alternative. Go to any Waffle House and sit where you can see the food being prepared. I guarantee that you will be entertained and amazed as you watch the skills of the short order cooks. Don’t tell Waffle House but I think they should charge extra for seats that allow you to be so well entertained.

Waffle House® restaurants are not intended to be entertainment venues but they certainly can be. The “unbeatable combination of good food with outstanding service” have made it a “beloved icon of the South” the first Waffle House opened on Labor Day 1955 in the Atlanta suburb of Avondale Estates. The original restaurant, which was sold by the chain in the early 1970s, has been restored using original blueprints and is now open as a museum.

Image may contain: food

Don’t let the name fool you. The menu includes many choices not just for breakfast but lunch and dinner as well. And all Waffle House restaurants are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year- the doors are never locked.

The original founders of the Waffle House brand both died in 2017 within two months of each other. Joe Rodgers Sr. passed away on March 3, 2017. Tom Forkner passed away on April 26, 2017.[9]

All food is prepared fresh, cooked to order and served on real china at every Waffle House. The kitchen is out front and in full view- and that is the where the entertainment comes in.

Waffle House photo of: The crew

On a recent visit to a Waffle House near my home our party of four enjoyed pecan waffles, bacon, eggs cooked to order, grits, raisin toast, and hashbrowns scattered, smothered and covered (one of many combinations available), and coffee. Two cooks and three servers provided excellent service- and good food- to us and the other 20-25 customers.

We sat at a booth close to and with a good view of the food preparation area. To fully appreciate the scene you must understand that nothing is written down. The servers shout out the orders in a language only understood by the grill operator and they use a system to make sure orders are right that is too complicated for me to understand or attempt to explain.

Carlos Whittaker describes his experience as a Waffle House short order cook this way: “Being a Waffle House cook was without a doubt, the hardest, most mind consuming job I have EVER had. 5 days after training on the grill in the afternoons from 2-4, they threw me into the fire. 6:30 am, that next Monday morning…’Bacon egg and cheese plate on 2 like 1! Waffle Up! Hashbrown scattered covered smothered chunked topped and diced. Ham and Cheese Omelet with extra cheese on 2 like 1! Pull a Ham!’ This was the first 90 seconds.” 

Good short order cooks/grill operators must have skills in many areas including communication, customer service, hand-eye coordination, sense of taste and smell, stamina, and teamwork (http://www.snagajob.com/job-descriptions/short-order-cook). In spite of the requirement of being multi-talented, these people are not highly compensated for their labor. The Board of Labor Statistics reports that the mean annual wage is $23,130. Servers make even less.

Consider Waffle House for your next dining out experience. You don’t have to dress up. The environment is pleasant. The entertainment is free. The service and food will be good and you won’t spend a lot of money. You won’t regret it, but be sure to leave a generous tip.

Jamie Jenkins

 

Last week I write about my recent visit to Cuba and my plans to return in October (you are welcome to join me). I spoke of the enjoyment of the experience and mentioned a few of the places we visited.

I could expand on the sites and people. There is much that could be said about the economic condition of the island nation just 90 miles from the United States. The pros and cons of the U.S. embargo could easily provide fodder for a long political discussion. I could compare and contrast the economies and governments of the two countries.

Instead, I want to share something which spoke to me about poverty and wealth and transcends the understanding of these two particular cultures.

image of worship - priest and worship at the catholic altar - JPG

On Sunday morning group leaders on the ship provided worship experiences for both Protestants and Catholics. Although attendance was voluntary, I am glad that I went. While Father Damien celebrated mass with the Catholics on board the ship, Rev. Bob Brown, one of the Protestant ministers, led a worship service in which we were introduced to a new song.

Cuando el Pobre (When the Poor Ones) is a Latin American hymn from 1971 written by J. A. Olivar and Miguel Manzano.  The English translation is by George Lockwood.

Bible

The hymn is a meditation on Matthew 25: 31-46, the parable of the great judgment, focusing on verses 34-36: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’” (NIV).

The United Methodist Hymnal editor Carlton Young notes: “The central teaching (of the hymn) is the classic liberation motif that God in Christ is seen and experienced in the plight of the rejected of society: the homeless, the poor, and the parentless. In life’s journey, we are closer to God when we love them and share from our abundance of food, clothing, and shelter. Those who choose the alternative—greed, hate, and war—will ‘go away into eternal punishment’” (Matthew 25:46a).

CUANDO EL POBRE (UMH #434)

When the poor ones who have nothing share with strangers,

When the thirsty water give unto us all,

When the crippled in their weakness strengthen others,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

When at last all those who suffer find their comfort,

When they hope though even hope seems hopelessness,

When we love though hate at times seems all around us,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

When our joy fills up our cup to overflowing,

When our lips can speak no words other than true,

When we know that love for simple things is better,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

When our homes are filled with goodness in abundance,

When we learn how to make peace instead of war,

When each stranger that we meet is called a neighbor,

[Refrain]

Then we know that God still goes that road with us,

Then we know that God still goes that road with us.

 
Jamie Jenkins

 

Map of Cuba

I have just returned from a trip to Cuba- a wonderful experience.

On October 17, 2016, President Obama announced that Cuba and the United States were formally reestablishing diplomatic ties with the opening of embassies in each other’s capitals. This agreement is the most sweeping change in U.S. policy toward Cuba since President John F. Kennedy proclaimed an embargo on trade between the two countries in February 1962.

Tourists from Europe, Canada, and other countries have been visiting Cuba for the past 50 years. Now that travel to Cuba is available to Americans, I wanted to see for myself what this island nations was like.

I flew from Atlanta to Havana where I joined others aboard the Celestyal Crystal which would serve as my floating hotel for the next seven days. This ship has a capacity of 960 passengers but there were significantly fewer than that since this is the low season for tourism. Havana is the only Cuban harbor that can accommodate larger ocean going cruise ships that carry thousands of folks. However, on our smaller ship we were able to dock in three cities in Cuba in addition to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

One of the ship’s publications described Cuba as “a continuing education. Just when you think you have figured it out, it confounds you with another brow-beating riddle…Twenty-first century Cuba promises to be like no other place you have ever visited: culturally rich, visibly mildewed, architecturally magnificent, infuriating, and at the same time uplifting.”

Havana- Christ Statue

 

We toured the old city of Havana, visited the stunningly beautiful National Theater, and stood before the huge statue of Jesus standing high above the city providing a wonderful panoramic view of the harbor and the city. The Spanish influence can be seen in the historic castles, fortresses, cathedrals, mansions, and public buildings of the capitol city. And, of course, the classic American cars were everywhere.

Havana- Old Cars

The coastal city of Cienfuegos, in the middle of the island, is known to Cubans as the “Pearl of the South.” Near the entrance to the bay stands the imposing fortress Castillo de Jagua, built in 1745 to protect the city against pirate attacks and the main square is stunning.

Cuba- Cienfuego

Our third Cuban port was the city of Santiago de Cuba on the eastern end of the island. The Cuban Revolution began here on July 26, 1953 with an ill-prepared armed attack on the Moncada Barracks by a small contingent of rebels led by Fidel Castro. A visit to the fortress Castillo del Morro and the National Cemetery where Fidel Castro’s Ashes are interred served as bookends to Cuba’s history.

Cuba- Castros Tomb.JPG

In addition to enjoying the beauty and history of Cuba we had the opportunity to meet the people. I found them to be friendly, welcoming, and hopeful. We visited an artist’s workshop, a community project, and five churches.

Cuba- artist

My visit to this fascinating, perplexing, paradoxical nation was so enjoyable but I need another visit to fully enjoy the beauty and culture of the country, the food, and the music. So I am planning to make another visit to Cuba in October. You are welcome to join me. If you would like more information, contact me, jjenkins1943@gmail.com

Cuba- Music and Culture

Jamie Jenkins

Body, mind, soul, spirit in old wood type

We tend to think of our bodies and minds as separate systems that function, for the most part, independently. Yet instinctively we know that is not the whole story. The way we think affects how we feel. If we think we are in danger, our body tends to experience stress, our hearts beat faster, and our palms get sweaty. If we think others love and appreciate us, our body responds with positive feelings.

The mind-body relationship has been a topic of conversation and research for centuries.  Scientists and philosophers have debated and attempted to explain mind-body interaction but there is disagreement about whether there is a rigid distinction between the mind and the body or are they uniquely unified.

Image of Human Skeleton Human Skeleton Front En Svg Diagram of

‘Wikipedia states that most modern philosophers maintain in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. According to one academic journal, “The problem of the relationship between the mind and the body, is one that has always fascinated humanity across all cultures and in all times.” The next two sentences of explanation in that journal contain 104 words, 571 character and takes 10 lines of space. Two sentences- and the wording left me completely befuddled.

Researchers are continually finding evidence that the brain has a distinct power to manipulate the body’s physiology.  I cannot fully understand the debate but it appears to me they are much more entwined than we might assume. Thought processes and physical responses appear to be interrelated but I cannot offer a scientific or philosophical explanation.

Brain

Robert Jones is not a scientist or philosopher. He runs 3 successful martial arts schools, He says, “The mind is the master of the body. If we train and discipline our minds, the body will follow. Once the body and mind become focused and in tune, you will see that your whole life will seem to flow; like you are in the zone.”

 

Recently I heard an athlete talking about his conditioning routine. His belief was that if you train the brain the body would follow. He talked about both mental and physical exercises and suggested that the brain (mind) determined what the body could/would do.

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind

Ernest Holmes, author of The Science of Mind says, “Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” If he is correct, then how we think is very important. What our minds focus on will determine our character and our actions. Perhaps that is what the Apostle Paul knew when he gave this advice: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 Common English Version).

Philippians 4:8 Inspirational Image

Jamie Jenkins

Love Is A Game That Two Can Play And Both WinWinston Churchill and I have something in common. We both believe that our most brilliant achievement was our ability to persuade our wives to marry us. There is nothing else that I have ever done that comes close to it.

Jamie and Lena- Valencia 2016-1

After forty-eight years of marriage to the same woman I can attest to the inestimable value of a life partner who loves you and supports you through good times and bad times. One who lives out the vows to love, honor and cherish. For better or worse. Richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. I also understand that having a good marriage requires a lot of patience and effort on the part of both persons.

divorce decree document and paper family figures Stock Photo - 10180323

Recently I saw a billboard that offered to help folks who wanted to “Undo the I Do.” There is no question that marriages can grow stagnant. Relationships can become strained. One or both parties may stray from their marital vows. With our human frailties and limitations, divorce sometimes may be the best alternative.

Every marriage has its ups and downs. Marriages that seem to be “made in heaven” often have to “live through hell” before they survive. Yet, in spite of everything, sometimes divorce might be the best choice. Marriage litigation experts can be helpful but I hope that everyone will try to “re-do” the “I do” before coming to the decision to make the marriage null and void.

Falling In Love

Mignon McLaughlin suggests that “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”  Falling in love may be easy but staying in love is an ongoing exercise.

Marriage therapy, communication, relationship advice:

There are many keys to a successful marriage. “Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have” (Gordon B. Hinckley).

Sometimes maintaining marriage vows is depicted as a burden and a duty. Although it is a responsibility to be taken seriously, I do not see it as bondage. Instead I believe it is a privilege that provides rich rewards.

Happiness in marriage is doing little things for each other repeatedly. Common courtesies and kind deeds that are present before marriage continue in daily life. It has been said (humorously I hope) that when a man opens the car door for his wife it is either a new car or a new wife. While I understand that customs have changed and women certainly are not “the weaker sex,” little gestures of courtesy are still important in a marriage relationship. Each “serves” the other with gratitude. These “little” acts of affection make up the hundreds of tiny threads that bind marriage partners to each other.

The illusion that everything will just turn out magically without having to communicate thoughts, feelings, and needs in a relationship is an immaturity that will make true connection impossible.:

Another key to a healthy and happy marriage is the recognition that each person in the relationship is unique and it is not necessary that both persons thinks alike and share all the same interests and skills. Ogden Nash said, “Marriage is the alliance of two people, one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other who never forgets them.” That is to say it is a good thing when each one brings something different to the relationship and those differences are seen as complementary rather than competitive.

I am no expert on marriage and I have made many mistakes in my relationship with my wife. I am extremely grateful for God’s grace that has been extended to us as we have worked together to make our marriage as healthy and happy as possible. I realize what Franz Schubert said is true. “Happy is the man who finds a true friend, and far happier is he who finds that true friend in his wife.

Jamie Jenkins

 

Working Smarter, Not Harder...Literally

Work smarter, not harder is good advice. This axiom takes into consideration that there might be a better way to accomplish a task. Analytical data present options that may be preferable to the old way.

That is the central premise of a book by Michael Lewis. It is the story about the Oakland Athletics, a Major League Baseball (MLB) team, and it’s General Manager Billy Beane. A film based on the book starred Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game proposes a better way to assemble a competitive team than how baseball insiders have done it in the past. The Athletics, and Beane in particular, believe that the use of computer-generated analysis to acquire new players produces better results than the system used for many years. The conclusion was that rigorous statistical analysis demonstrated better indicators of success. This strategy enabled the A’s to reach the playoffs in 2002 and 2003 in spite of having the third-lowest team payroll in the league.

If you are not a baseball fan, don’t quit reading.

Theo Epstein

In 2004 Theo Epstein became the youngest GM in the history of MLB when the Boston Red Sox hired him at the age of 28. Using the Moneyball approach, he led the team to six playoff appearances and two World Series titles (something they had not accomplished in 86 years) in nine seasons.

In 2011 Epstein resigned from his job in Boston to become President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs. His devotion to the data-driven analysis that helped teams identify and accumulate players with little-noticed but crucial strengths had succeeded inestimably in Boston. However, “a few weeks before spring training of 2012, in the ballroom of a budget hotel in Mesa, Ariz., Theo Epstein stood before nearly every person connected with the baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs and told them how the Cubs were going to win the World Series” (Fortune Magazine).

The magazine article was based on The Cubs Way: The Zen of Building the Best Baseball Team and Breaking the Curse, a book by Tom Verducci. He reported that “Epstein devoted the first three days of the session to on-field strategy: hitting philosophy, pitching philosophy, defense, and base running. But the entire last day was devoted to character. The Cubs, Epstein insisted, would acquire only players with outstanding makeup.”

Near the end of his tenure at Boston he came to understand that character and chemistry were strengths that could not be captured with a strictly analytic approach and “their absence was painfully clear as the team underwent a late-season collapse. The more the team lost, the more it broke apart from within. Players ­feuded with one another. The egos that had created cracks in the clubhouse while they were winning caused deep fissures as they lost.”

Epstein had put so much faith in numbers when he began as general manager of the Red Sox. “Now character did not just matter. It was essential to Epstein’s blueprint to win the World Series.” He gave his scouts very specific instructions about how to assess not only a player’s skills and abilities but the kind of person he was. How he treated other people. How he responded to adversity. What others- friends and enemies- said about him. His character.

Chicago Cubs 1908 & 2016 World Series Champions Team Photo (Size: 12" x 15") Framed

The brilliance of what the Cubs did was to put their faith not just in numbers, but also in the type of people they acquired. In 2016, five years of applying this new approach, the Cubs won their first World Series championship in 108 years.

Epstein understood that character counts!

Isn’t that what Jesus was implying when he told his disciples “Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.” “Don’t say anything you don’t mean” (Matthew 5:33 CEV, MSG). Repeatedly the Master points his followers to a high standard of morality and instructs them to be genuine in their relationships.

Jesus wants us to know, character counts.

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.

Charles Wesley.jpg

It is Easter morning.

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.

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.

“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.

Jesus Reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene

“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 came 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!

He is not here - for He is risen

Jamie Jenkins

 

Mobile, AL: Springhill Ave Mobile Al.

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a part of life. Although the celebrations in New Orleans are more well-known, Mardi Gras has its origin in my home town.

 

Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition in the 17th Century. King Louis XIV sent Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to defend territory that included parts of what is now Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and eastern Texas.

Mobile, AL: Conde Charlotte Museum house 1822 Mobile, Alabama

The settlement of Mobile was founded in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana by Bienville. In 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was founded, French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration tradition in what was to become the United States. By 1720, the French capitol had been moved to Biloxi, Mississippi. In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans. It was not until 1837 that the first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras Poster

The festival of Mardi Gras that began in Mobile as a French Catholic tradition evolved into a mainstream multi-week celebration across the spectrum of cultures in Mobile (as well as New Orleans). The last couple of days became school holidays  regardless of religious affiliation.

As a boy growing up in Mobile I looked forward to Mardi Gras but I had no understanding of its religious significance marking the beginning of Lent the day after the last parade and Carnival ball. I have come to understand that “Mardi Gras Day” was also known as Fat Tuesday, a day to feast and celebrate before Ash Wednesday which was the start of 40 days of fasting and introspection for devout Catholics and many other Christians.

Mobile had a strong community of Roman Catholics and a variety of other expressions of Christianity. Unlike them, the religious environment in which I grew up did not give much emphasis to the Christian Year and accompanying traditions and liturgy. We celebrated the High Holy Days of Christmas and Easter and acknowledged the events of Palm Sunday. However the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent were not a part of our tradition or practice.

Lent Concept Watercolor Theme

I have learned to value those periods of time that the Church has observed that have nurtured and enhanced the lives of Jesus’ followers.

A lit candle and the text holy week

The six weeks of Lent are about over. Holy Week began last Sunday with Palm/Passion Sunday when we remembered the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem but with the realization that the week would end sadly.

Today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday when we recall the last meal Jesus had with his disciples just before he would be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Tomorrow is Good Friday commemorating the day that Jesus was crucified. How could such a tragic event be “good?” Jesus sacrificed himself to show the world the extent of his love for each person. He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to me.” This “disaster” was transformed a couple of days later when Jesus arose from the dead.

My celebration of the Resurrection this Easter Sunday will have added meaning because of the period of introspection and the emphasis of sacrifice during Lent. I have consciously reflected on God’s love for humankind that was demonstrated in Jesus. I have the remembered the severity of his sacrifice. I have examined my life as I have prayed, read, and meditated.

Today I feel a tinge of pain thinking about the extent of Jesus’ suffering. The sadness I feel because of the abuse Jesus endured is mixed with a deep sense of gratitude for his extraordinary love for me and all people of the world.

Today I am taking a deep breath allowing the Holy Spirit to enliven me and lead me to a life of devotion to the Suffering Servant. You are invited to do the same.

 

IMG_4795

Spring finally arrived. The redbud trees, tulips, daffodils, azaleas, and dogwoods were welcome sights after the drab look of winter.

Cherry Blossoms

I got excited when I noticed buds on the cherry trees a few weeks ago. Then I worried that the blossoms would appear only to be killed by the last blast of cold weather. Fortunately the blossoms were wise enough to wait.

The trees have been in full bloom for the past few weeks and they are gorgeous. But their time has come to an end. By the time this is read the blooms will be all gone and the trees have sprouted green leaves for the rest of the season.

Cherry Trees 2

As the weather warmed, the cherry blossoms began to blow in the wind like snowflakes. That which had been picturesque became messy. Last week I became frustrated as I attempted to clean up the fallen cherry blossoms. I blew them out of the yard into the street so I could gather them up. When I would get a pile of them together a gust of wind would blow or a car would come down the street and they would scatter.

Finally I thought I had cleaned up all of the blossoms but as the breeze began to blow ever so gently another shower of the tiny white blossoms spread across the front lawn again.

This experience helped me to remember a few things about life.

  •  Life. Is not always neat. Things can get messy at times.
  • Nothing is forever. The Apostle Paul reminds us that even our human body is a temporary dwelling.
  • Life is cyclical. Good things/times come and go. “There is a time for everything under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
  • Change is inevitable- and can be very good. Aren’t you glad that we no longer heat our homes with fireplaces fueled by wood? And can you imagine navigating a new metropolitan area without a GPS? Can you remember when you had only three television channels to watch?
  • Everything has a price. A line from one of Carole King’s songs reminds us “If you want to be complete, you have to take the bitter with the sweet.” Gaining and losing are equally essential for life.
  • It is important to enjoy the good things in life but not to hold onto them too tightly.

I have welcomed springtime with all the beautiful offerings of Mother Nature. But I look forward to the warmth of summer that will give way to the changing colors of fall. Even cold winter will be welcome because the earth needs time to rest and be restored.

“So I (have) made up my mind that there’s nothing better for us men and women than to have a good time in whatever we do—that’s our lot.” (Ecclesiastes 3:22, The Message)

Jamie Jenkins