Archives for the month of: July, 2012

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

My office is located on the grounds of the Simpsonwood Conference andRetreatCenterin Peachtree Corners (formerly Norcross),Georgia. The road from my office to the street is about a quarter of a mile and has had several places where the road surface has sunken. When I approach those areas I instinctively move to the opposite side of the road to avoid the dip. I have done it many times over the past eleven years.

Recently the low spots in the road were corrected. The road is now smooth after it was filled in and repaved. However, my driving pattern has not been altered. Although there is no need to swerve to miss the low spot in the road which is no longer there, I find myself following the pattern that has been learned from many trips down that short stretch of road. When I approach the places in the road where there used be a dip, I move to the other side without even thinking.

I am working to change my old habit but it takes intentional efforts to reprogram my mind. I have to consciously tell myself, “The road has been repaired. Stay straight ahead.”

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

When I was child the bath towels we used at home were not thick and plush like you might have at a nice hotel. They were of “economical quality.” In other words, thin. And because we were thrifty (poor) we used them as long as they had even the slightest drying effect. As a result, after showering I would use my hands to wipe excess water from my body. That way the towel could effectively complete the task.

I still practice the habit of daily showers or baths but the towels at my house today are much thicker than the ones I used as a boy. Nonetheless the drying habit developed decades ago still lingers with me.

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

My oldest son began smoking cigarettes when he was a college student. Because he has asthma his doctor advised him to quit smoking (good advice for anyone). Jason stopped smoking but the nicotine desire has not gone away. He kicked the habit and has not taken it up again but he told me that, after more than twenty years, sometimes when he smells a cigarette he still wants one.

Habits- whether good or bad- are hard to break.

My grandchildren, ages six and nine and a half, live in Tokyo(I have pictures if you are interested). They are growing up in a very urban environment. Their apartment is just one block from a very busy street and they walk or ride their bicycles everywhere. They have learned to obey traffic signals and pedestrian crosswalks. When they visit us they remind us of the dangers of our more casual attitude of crossing the street on foot. If the traffic signal indicates that one should not cross, they insist that you wait even if there is no traffic in sight.

Habits-whether good or bad- are learned and they are hard to break.

Practice does not make perfect but repetition over time creates pathways in the brain that can become second nature. Just as it is for your golf swing or swimming backstroke, practice is the key to spiritual disciplines. Reading the Bible. Prayer. Generosity. Worship. Principled living. All of these are habits that can be cultivated and like all habits-whether good or bad- once they are learned they are hard to break.

Jamie Jenkins

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Foreclosures hit people of all socio-economic levels.

Two of my neighbors lost their homes in the past three years. One was foreclosed after both husband and wife lost their jobs and were unemployed for more than two years. The other was a short sale when the only income producer was the victim of downsizing by his employer.

Both of these families were decent, hard working, well educated, middle class folks. They were victims of the economic collapse from which the country is still recovering.

This past week one house in the metro Atlanta area sold for $7.5 million. The bad news is the owner owed the bank twice that much- and $200,000 back taxes.

The 109 room house built in the late 1990s for $22 million has 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms, three kitchens, a two-lane bowling alley, a 135-seat theater, an Olympic-sized pool, two marble staircases. The 54,000 square foot house sat on a 235 acres tract of land and required $1 million annually for upkeep.

Evander Holyfield, the former owner, said, “I built it thinking about the next generation. I wanted my kids to get what I didn’t have. I needed a lot of land where people could live, a place where there wouldn’t be a lot of noise, where people could be themselves.”

Holyfield was born in Atmore, Alabama but his family moved to Atlanta when he was two years old. He was the youngest of nine children in a family well acquainted with poverty. He started boxing when he was 12 and began his professional career ten years later. He became the only five time heavyweight boxing champion of the world,  and has earned over one-quarter of a billion dollars.

By 1992, Holyfield was already a household name, promoting  multiple products on television. He also had a video game released. He appeared on numerous television shows and movies and embarked on several business ventures, none of which were very successful.

One biographer says that Holyfield has “at least 11 children” with at least 7 different women, three of whom he was married to but is now divorced. At one time his child support was $500,000 a year.  Add alimony to that and you have a pretty sizable amount of money flowing out..

In spite of all the money Holyfield has made he is now homeless. Well, not really. He is reportedly living in condo in Atlanta after having been evicted from his home on July 10. The house had been auctioned in March but he was allowed to live there until the deputy showed up at his door and told him he had 15 minutes to vacate the house.

Holyfield became a Christian and after his conversion, he started professing his faith everywhere, reminding the public before and after his fights that he is a born-again Christian. Friends and foes point out Holyfield tithed 10 percent throughout his career. In 2000, Holyfield’s second wife contended that he gave $7 million to one Atlanta based mega-church.

Holyfield always credited his success to two factors–his religious faith and the inspiration provided by his mother. “When I lost at anything, I was always able to go back and learn from those losses and then concentrate on the next fight,” he told the Boston Globe. “I made the 1984 Olympic team not because I didn’t lose any fights but because I was able to keep focused and I had a strong lady in my life, my mother. She taught me you have to live for today. Tomorrow is not always promising and not always promised. It’s an attitude that comes from a lot of pride and a lot of faith.”

It is obvious that Evander Holyfield made a lot of mistakes in his life. Perhaps he will remember his mother’s words once again and will be able to re-build his life and reputation. With God’s help.

Jamie Jenkins

When I come home I expect her to greet me at the door. When I get up during the night I expect her to be in her place in the bedroom. When I am relaxing in my recliner I expect her to be nearby quietly and lovingly keeping me company. But she is not there any more.

No, I am not talking about my wife. We are still together and very much in love after almost 44 years of marriage. Neither am I talking about my girlfriend or mistress. I have neither. I am referring to a mixed breed (mostly border collie) dog named Addie.

If you are not a dog lover or have never had a long time pet die, you may have difficulty understanding what I am trying to say.  You might want to stop reading now.

I miss Addie scratching at the door letting me know she needed to go out. I miss the sound of her tags clinking against her food and water dishes as she ate and drank. I miss her waiting for me to feed her. I miss her in more ways than I would ever have imagined.

For almost 16 years she exhibited unconditional love and brought unlimited joy. Now she is gone. I cannot explain what a void she has left.

It was after church on the first Sunday of Advent that she came into the life of my family over 15 years ago. We named her Addie because of the season on the Christian calendar.

Addie was found tied to a tree with a wire and was brought to the Animal Shelter. The scar left under her neck was a graphic reminder of the abuse she had suffered. In spite of that she was the calmest of all the dogs at the shelter that Sunday. Whatever sedatives they had given her wore off a few days after we brought her home and she became very active.

When she was young Addie could jump about 6 feet straight up like she was on a pogo stick. She welcomed people with great enthusiasm. She was not a mean or dangerous dog but if anyone walked down the sidewalk in front of our house, she felt it was her duty to remind them that was her territory.

As she grew older Addie’s energy subsided but her gentle sweet spirit always remained. She would have a look of ecstasy when you scratched under her neck. She loved to be petted and would approach you with the expectation that you would accommodate her.

Eventually age and health issues caused Addie to spend most of her time sleeping. Arthritis made it difficult for her to lie down. Climbing the stairs to our bedroom at night became a real struggle. Her breathing was almost always labored. She would scratch on the door to be let outside and moments later she was ready to come back in. That cycle was repeated often. At times she would just stand and stare and you wondered what, if anything, was on her mind.

On a recent Saturday morning we watched as Addie breathed her last breath and her body became very still. It was a heart breaking moment as she slipped away. No more labored breathing. No more struggle to get around. No more confusion.

I am not a “dog person” but Addie was so much a part of my life and the life of my family. She required so little and gave so much love.

She was just a dog you might say. No, she was a member of the family. And she is gone. If that has to be explained to you then there is no way you can understand the pain and loss that I feel.

The love and affirmation I received from Addie will never be forgotten. But that is the nature of love, isn’t it? – no matter where it comes from.

Jamie Jenkins

This is the first of a new venture.

For the past five years I have written a weekly e-newsletter. This allowed me the privilege of beginning each week with many people on Monday morning. We were coming off the weekend and anticipating whatever God might lead us into during the next few days.

Paul Williams and Roger Nichols wrote a song that was recorded by the popular brother-sister duo Richard and Karen Carpenter. One recurring line said that “rainy days and Mondays always get me down.” Many folks begin each week in that mood- reluctant to return to what they perceive as the drudgery of routine.

The intent of my Monday Morning musings was to inspire, inform, challenge, and motivate readers to relate the Good News to real life. Some times my thoughts were worthy of being read but I suspect often they reflected more my own personal struggles and growing pains with little value to others. Nevertheless, the knowledge that there were people expecting something to pop up in their email inbox on the first day of the week was a good imposed discipline for me.

The value of that discipline and the encouragement of some of the people who found my offerings helpful motivated me to launch this new venture. Instead of starting our weeks together, Thoughts for Thursday will be an attempt to carry us “over the hump” of the week and move forward with an attitude of gratitude for the good things that God is doing for us and an expectancy that God will use us for good to others.

Yesterday was the 43rd running of the Peachtree Road Race. Lena and I joined 60,000 others on this 10K (6.2 mile) run/walk from Lenox Square in Buckhead down Peachtree Street to Piedmont Park. We missed it last year but are glad we were able to participate this July 4th. It is a fun way to celebrate the holiday.

There were several things I observed that I want to pass on because they represent principles that can be applied in many settings including the church.

First of all, the planning and organization was exceptional. From arriving at the race site to the finish line and beyond, the attention to detail was extremely evident. The routes were very clearly marked. The resource stations and necessary directions/instructions were well identified and easily understood.  A lot of places I go, churches and businesses, could learn from the race planners about how to assist guests and customers to find their way around an unfamiliar facility.

Hundreds of volunteers are necessary for an event of this magnitude and they all seemed to be very friendly, well trained, and efficient. Managing this enormous crowd of participants required exceptional skill and they did it well. Whether it was getting the waves of racers to the start line in an orderly manner, snapping photographs, handing out water along the route, distributing the coveted T-shirts at the finish line or many other responsibilities, everyone seemed to be conscientiously doing their part. What would we do without such dedicated volunteers?

The celebratory atmosphere was contagious. It was like a gigantic block party and everyone was glad to be there. It was early in the day. The weather was typical forAtlanta-hot and humid. There were crowds of people and a lot of noise. Nevertheless it seemed that of all the places in the world, this was where everyone wanted to be. Shouldn’t it be that way when we come to worship at the church?

A diverse crowd of thousands of spectators lined the streets from start to finish and they constantly encouraged the racers. At the start line racers were advised, “Fast to the left. Slow to the right.” I had the right side curb all the way- and I needed the encouragement of the crowd. They rang bells, held signs, and gave high fives. Repeatedly you heard shouts of, “You’re looking good!”  “Good job!”  “You’re almost there!” “Keep up the good work.” It is amazing what a difference a little affirmation makes. Not once did I hear anyone speak negatively or suggest doubt that I and the others would make it to the finish. Not one discouraging word.

I have never been one to wear clothing that promoted anything. It has never made sense to me why I should pay to advertise someone’s product or service. Billboards, television and radio commercials, newspaper and magazine advertisements cost money. Why are they not paying me if they want me to advertise for them? But when I heard that my church was giving out T-shirts to those who would participate in the race, I got one. I joined the folks from Home Depot, Waffle House, UPS, and Reebok and proudly promoted Peachtree Road United Methodist Church as I made my way to the finish line (yes, I did finish). The community needed to know that the corporate and commercial enterprises were not the only ones who served their community.

I will recover and will be ready for next year’s 44th Peachtree Road Race. In the meantime I am going to try to apply the lessons I learned yesterday.

I look forward to sharing with you every Thursday morning. Your feedback is welcomed and you are encouraged to invite others to subscribe to Thoughts for Thursday.

Jamie Jenkins, thoughtsforthursday@wordpress.comjjenkins@ngumc.org