Archives for the month of: September, 2012

Today is my birthday! I have counted a lot of them since the day I arrived at the Barber Hospital in Butler, Alabama on that September day long ago. Rather than how many years I have counted, it is important how many of them I have made count.

A prayer of Moses (Psalm 90) suggests that the life span of a human being is “no longer than a dream. We are like weeds that sprout in the morning, that grow and burst into bloom, then dry up and die in the evening.” He suggested that even if we live 70 or 80 years “life is soon over, and we are gone.”  Then he asks God to “teach us to number our days.”

Words are tools that help us communicate clearly and choosing the right word is extremely important. When others are speaking we need to listen carefully to their words.

There is a television commercial that touts the advantages of a particular “energy drink.” The spokesperson points to a stack of papers and says, “We surveyed 3500 doctors and 71% said they would recommend an energy drink to their healthy patients who used energy drinks.”

The implication is that almost three-fourths of the physicians that were surveyed endorsed the use of the particular product the commercial was promoting. However, the use of the word “an” suggests that other similar products might be equal to the one being pitched by this advertisement. Of course, there are also other qualifiers in this brief statement that can clouds the results of the survey and the way they are presented is deceiving.

The psalmist could have requested God to help us remember our years. There is certainly value in reflecting on our experiences. The prayer could have been to encourage us to commemorate the passing of one year after another. Or it could have been admonition to celebrate each year of life. All of these are fitting and appropriate.

I believe the psalmist carefully selected “number” when he spoke of the years of our life. “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry” (Proverbs 25:11, The Message). Number was the “right” word. You can reflect, commemorate, and celebrate just because you have survived but to number is to suggest that we intentionally give meaning and significance to life. The reminder is to live wisely and well.

In Meredith Wilson’s play The Music Man “professor Harold Hill tries to get Marian the librarian to go out with him. She repeatedly refuses. One day he asks her to meet him by the foot bridge over the stream in the park but again she resists. “Maybe tomorrow,’ she says. Professor replies, “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to make today worth remembering.”

I hope to be around for a few more years but more importantly I want to make whatever time I have here on earth to have meaning and purpose. I want to follow God’s guidance and invest myself in things that matter. I intend to number my days no matter how many more I count.

Jamie Jenkins

My wife left me. Don’t stop reading and start rumors. We are still happily married after more than 42 years. She just went to visit her family in Mobile for a few days and is now back home. Hallelujah!

Things change significantly when Lena is not at home for a period of time. The routine of my days remain pretty much as they would if she was home, but the evenings are different.

We don’t have a set time for dinner and it is not a formal affair at our house on a daily basis. The atmosphere is casual and the food is usually not fancy but we sit at the table together and have conversation as we eat. Whether it is a tomato sandwich or Lena has prepared one of my favorite dishes, talking is at least as important as eating. I miss that when she is gone.

I don’t watch a lot of television but I do enjoy the various sporting events that are broadcast. I am a lucky man because my spouse is as much of a sports fan as I am (especially the Braves). We watch the Braves games regularly during the spring and summer months. The games are broadcast when Lena is away but watching them is not the same without her. I can still relax in my recliner and view the action but it is different when you are alone. If you shout, “Did you see that!” when McCann throws out a runner attempting to steal second base and there is nobody else at home, it is not the same.

I suspect Bill Withers had different circumstances in mind when he penned the words to “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 but the lyrics fit when Lena goes away for a few days.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

It’s not warm when she’s away. 

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone

And she’s always gone too long

Anytime she goes away. 

I am grateful that I am not alone most of the time. I have been blessed for a long time with a loving wife who is my best friend. We have been together long enough that we don’t always have to talk a lot when we are together. Just knowing she is near is a great gift.

During this recent time of being home alone for a few days I thought a lot about people for whom that is an every day reality. The circumstances of their lives leave them without companionship many days and nights.

I know that we are never really alone. God is always with us but to have someone “with a face” is incredibly important. There is something significant about the ministry of presence- another human with whom we can converse or just  “be with.”

I am grateful for my marriage and the one who shares life with me. There is no other relationship that can compare. However, I suspect there are other persons with whom  I could be a friend and to whom I could offer conversation and companionship. I am sure there are persons who are lonely and just need to know someone cares. Someone with whom they could share joys, sorrows, and times of simply being together. I suspect that is true for each of us.

Jamie Jenkins

Life is full of starts and stops. Ups and downs. Cycles. But I believe that people of faith ought to always see life as an adventure.

Long ago God called Abram to pick up and leave everything that was familiar and journey to a place that he did not know (Genesis 12). Although Abram did not know the destination, God assured him of guidance to the “land that I will show you.”

It was not necessary for Abram to know the end from the beginning. God knew the way.

Along the way Abram and his entourage encountered some difficult circumstances but the promise of God was that blessings would be the reward for faithful obedience. As they traveled on their divinely directed journey we are told that “the Canaanites were in the land” (Gen. 12:6) and they lived in “great cities walled up to the sky.” The Canaan Convention and Visitors Bureau was not very hospitable. But Abram continued to follow God’s direction.

It is irrational to believe that all of life will be smooth sailing- even for people who follow God’s leading. We mistakenly think that the absence of struggle and challenge is a good thing. In fact the opposite is true. Adversity is not our enemy; it is often our good friend strengthening us for the journey.

In 1962, Victor and Mildred Goertzel published a revealing study of 413 “famous and exceptionally gifted people” called Cradles of Eminence. They spent years attempting to understand what produced such greatness, what common thread might run through all of these outstanding people’s lives. Surprisingly, the most outstanding fact was that virtually all of them, 392, had to overcome very difficult obstacles in order to become who they were.

Malcolm Muggeridge said, “Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my 75 years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.”

It seems to me that the key is to be on the path that God has planned for us. If we are, we will be equal to every test and able to overcome any obstacle. As we journey with God we will learn, as Abram did, that God will bless us and make us a blessing to others.

Jamie Jenkins

Mister Roy Barton was church treasurer for more than twenty years. His financial reports to the board of the ComerUnitedMethodistChurch were simple and succinct. When called on he would say how much money had been received and how much had been spent. Then he would add, “Everything is alright.”

That was it. No detailed income and expenses statements. No balance sheet. No details. And the board would move on to the next item on the agenda.

I knew Mr. Roy in the mid-1970s. In his earlier life he made a living as a traveling dry goods salesman. By the time I came to know him he and his wife, Miss Lois, owned the Hub Store in downtown Comer, Georgia about twenty miles east of Athens.

The Hub Store was next door to Mr. Rudy Mann’s grocery and two doors down from Mr. Elmer McConnell’s hardware store which was next door to the small Blue Bell factory.

When I moved to Comer Mr. Roy was one of the first people I met. One of his duties as church treasurer was to write the preacher’s check every month so naturally I wanted to become acquainted with him as soon as possible.

On our first visit in June 1975 Mr. Roy offered me $2 and recommended his barber. My hair was a bit longer than his and I guess he was trying to help. I gratefully accepted his money but graciously refused the invitation to let his barber give me a haircut.

Mr. Roy and Miss Lois lived just a couple of blocks away from their store across the railroad tracks down toward the Methodist church. He was always at the store and she spent most of her time there also. I visited them regularly and enjoyed the many times we would sit in the back of the store and talk. They did not have any children but they were so kind to my two small children.

When my family was with me on my visits to the Hub Store, Miss Lois would always give Jason and Jennifer a nickel so they could go next door to Mr. Rudy’s grocery and buy candy. After their big purchase they would come back and she would give them a Coke- one of the old six-ounce bottles. As they drank their Coca-Cola and ate their candy she would try to wipe the sticky mess from their faces with a Kleenex tissue. That never did work very well.

The time I knew Mr. Roy was long before the days of home computers and much of the technology that everyone has now in their homes and businesses. He had an old cash register where he rang up the infrequent sale at his store but he did not have an adding machine. When someone bought something he would figure the cost on a little brown paper bag with a stub of a pencil. I can still hear him, “That’s $5.95. Add 5% tax. That’s 30 cents. 5+0 equals 5. 9+3 equals 12. Carry the 1. That total is $6.25.” As he spoke he calculated the transaction on that little paper bag.

Mr. Roy did not need to go through that long mathematical process to know what the customer owed him for the merchandise. But that was the way he did it. Every time.

Mr. Roy was smart although he did not have much formal education. He said one of the dumbest things that humans ever did was take perfectly good dirt and plant grass on it. He remembered the days when out in the country you swept your yard with an old brush broom. That was much easier (and he thought much smarter) than the expense and effort of maintaining a green grass lawn.

I remembered Mr. Roy recently on a hot humid August afternoon as I was cutting the grass and edging the lawn at my house. I think he was right.

Jamie Jenkins