Archives for the month of: December, 2012

DSC_0445

The minister who was to officiate was unavailable due to a death in his family. The ring bearer had chicken pox but a kid was found who fit the tuxedo. The photographer could not make it because he was hospitalized. But the wedding took place anyway.

In spite of all the last minute difficulties surrounding the wedding, tomorrow will mark the 44th anniversary of our marriage.

December 28, 1968 is the second most important date in my life. That is the day that Lena Loper became my wife. She said she would love me, comfort me, honor and keep me in sickness and in health, and be faithful to me as long as we both were alive. She has kept those vows and I am eternally grateful.

I am so glad that Lena is my wife, the mother of our three children, and the grandmother of our two grandchildren.

For over four decades Lena has given herself to me. She has followed me from south Alabama to New York, Tennessee, and Georgia. She has gone with me to every place the bishop has appointed me for over 40 years. Her love has caused her to be my chief critic and staunchest supporter.

On our 40th anniversary Lena jokingly said she was grateful for 25 years of happy marriage. At least I think she was joking. The truth is all marriages, and ours is no exception, have bad times and good times. There are a lot of ups and downs. Mountains and valleys. Challenges and triumphs. The Apostle Paul said “love endures all things.” I thank God that Lena meant what she said when we stood at the altar and vowed our lives to each other “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish as long as you both shall live.”

Lena has been my encourager. Her laughter has brightened my days. Her devotion to me and our family has strengthened me. The intensity of her emotions has inspired me. Her creativity has enriched my life. Her integrity has been an example for me. Her love for people is remarkable.

We have shared a lot of life in the years since we started dating in 1965. We could not have imagined the wealth of experiences that God would provide when we began this journey together. There have been many twists and turns in the road but we have taken them together. Sometimes agreeing and sometimes having different opinions about the right course to take. But through it all we have been faithful to each other and God has faithfully guided out steps.

Our journey continues. As Lena and I begin another year of life together we trust God’s guidance and provision for our future as we have for our past. I am excited to see what the 45th year of our marriage will hold. And I pray for all persons who have given their lives to each other that God will “bless your marriage, grant you fulfillment in it, and establish your home in peace.”

Jamie Jenkins

Advertisements

I always remember Walter at Christmas. I will never forget him and the lesson he taught me 40 years ago.

I worked in a supermarket during my college years and it was there that I met twelve-year old Walter. He would regularly come by the store and over a period of time we struck up a friendship. At first he was very shy and would stand at a distance and watch me as I worked. Gradually he came closer and our conversations grew from the exchange of a few words to real dialogue.

Walter lived with his mother, aunt, and a younger brother and sister. Their home was an old run down house near the supermarket. I learned that his father was in prison and it was obvious that the family was very poor. I saw him regularly during the 2 years that I lived and worked in that small town. Often he would be with his mother and other family members. Never once did I hear his mother or aunt speak kindly to him or his siblings. The circumstances of his life explained why he seemed to suffer from a sense of inferiority.

Although economically disadvantaged, Walter exhibited a strong sense of pride. Often I would offer to buy him a Coke or candy bar but he always refused. He worked sweeping sidewalks in front of the downtown businesses, collected bottles to return for deposits, and a variety of odd jobs to earn a few dollars.

When our first child was born in mid September, Walter was excited and wanted to see him. Much to my surprise he accepted an invitation to come home with me one day to see baby Jason.

The addition to our family was a wonderful event but it put extra strain on our already limited finances. As Christmas approached that year we decided that we could not afford to go home to be with our families for the holidays. We began to feel sorry for ourselves and regularly had pity parties.

On  a cold, rainy December day, a couple of weeks before Christmas, Walter came into the store where I worked. I saw him at the end of the grocery aisle and he was motioning for me to follow him. I had no idea what he wanted but I followed as he waved me on. When I got to the front of the aisle Walter was going out the door and was waving for me to come after him.

As I exited the store and looked to my left I saw Walter standing in the rain. His old ragged brown coat was soaking wet as he held something in his hand. Looking closely I realized it was a scraggly little evergreen. It looked like someone had chopped off the top of a tree that was too tall to fit in their house. I asked, “Walter where did you get that?” He answered, “You know that Christmas tree lot up on Main Street? They sold it to me for 50 cents. Ain’t it pretty?” I know I lied in response but he was so proud of it and he added, “I just didn’t think it was right for my little brother and sister not to have a Christmas tree.”

He turned and started to run away then he stopped, dug into his pants pocket, and counting his change he asked, “How many decorations do you think I could get for $1.82?” Before I could answer he turned and ran off.

I stood there in the rain and realized how selfish I had been. Walter reminded me that the spirit of Christmas is about giving. I had been so caught up in thinking only of myself that I forgot the Reason for Season. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” Walter was a living reminder of God’s love. I am grateful for the lesson learned.

Jamie Jenkins

I heard angels singing last weekend. I have not “been to the other side” but I experienced a bit of heaven on earth last Sunday. Twice.

The Many Moods of Christmas under the leadership of Scott H. Atchison is one of the reasons why USA Today named Peachtree Road United Methodist as one of the Ten Best Places to Hear Christmas Music. The Chancel Choir along with the Georgia Boy Choir accompanied by a 35 piece orchestra offers an unsurpassed musical and spiritual experience each December. It has become one of the highlights of the Advent/Christmas season for me.

As the sound of Serenity (Magnum Mysterium) filled the room, I was transported from my seat in the sanctuary into a heavenly realm. This was just one selection of the evening that lifted my spirit and inspired my soul.

I enjoy many of the sights and sounds of the season but Brenda Lee’s Rocking Around the Christmas Tree just does not have the same effect as the Zachary Brown and the choir singing The Vision Isaiah Saw. Although I love to hear Bing Crosby’s rendition of I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas, it pales in comparison to Amy Little’s version of Silent Night.

I have been reminded many times already this December that this is “the best time of the year” but Burl Ives’ Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas, does not compare with Will Green singing O Come, O Come, Immanuel or the Chamber Singers Hodie Christus natus est (Today Christ is Born).

In addition to the program last Sunday evening I had another wonderfully uplifting experience earlier in the day. I attended worship service at the Sugarloaf United Methodist Church that morning and my spirit was buoyed by the excellent music of the Praise Team led by Harrison Hinson

The  music at Sugarloaf UMC was a distinctly different style from the event later that day at Peachtree Road UMC but it was excellent. The very gifted musicians and singers offered their talents to lead the congregation. It was a very meaningful time of worship as we sang together, O Little Town of Bethlehem. The voices and the instruments combined to offer high praise to God as we sang Joy to the World and other music that told the story of the Gift of the Christ Child.

I am grateful for all the music of the season. Frosty the Snowman is a song I enjoy singing and Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer is very much a part of the holiday repertoire. I tap my feet and lift my voice along with others as we sing Here Comes Santa Claus and Jolly Old St. Nicholas but they don’t tell the real story of Christmas.

I am grateful for the music and the musicians that help me remember the Reason for the Season. It does not matter if it is violins and harp or drums and guitars. Harrison on the piano at Sugarloaf or Nicole at the great pipe organ of Peachtree Road. Thank God for great Christmas music that tells the Story and feeds the soul.

Jamie Jenkins

We are always what our situation hands us. These words of Billy Joel are true but they do not tell the whole story.

Another singer some years advocated that “You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and know when to run.” I think that both Billy Joel and Kenny Rogers are right. We have to play the hand we are dealt. Good, bad, or indifferent. Our choices are to resign ourselves to some predetermined fate, pleasant or unpleasant, or we can utilize all available resources- common sense, creativity, logic, finances, talents, wisdom, faith- to move from our present reality to a more preferred future.

Someone once described me as a “realistic optimist.” I am not exactly sure what that means and even if I did I am not sure it is correct. I do try to deal with reality as I perceive it, celebrate the current circumstances where I can, and do what I can do to create a more positive reality.

The old television show, Hee Haw, had as its theme song, “Gloom, despair, agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, agony on me.” Unfortunately, that is the attitude of many people. They feel that they are victims of some kind of fate that dooms them for life. I am sure that many people live in conditions that would easily give rise to that mentality but succumbing to that way of thinking will only make matters worse.

One has only to look around to realize that all people do not experience life at the same level. Poverty, disease, prejudice, and war, are among the factors that seek to sap life’s vitality. However, persons who live in very adverse conditions often project a positive outlook on life. I am among the privileged of the world and yet persons who have the abundance that I enjoy, and more, often feel that life has no meaning.

I don’t understand all that but what I do know is that God desires for all people to experience a fulfilling life. God said to the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have in mind for you; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope” (Jer. 29:11, CEB).

Jesus said, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10, CEB). That quality of life is meant for everyone.

We carry a tremendous amount of responsibility for happiness and joy in our own lives. We have the capacity to live purposeful and meaningful lives in all circumstances. The ability to cope with and overcome adversity is built into the fabric of every human being. Circumstances and environment can stifle and attempt to destroy that innate resource but we are not alone in this venture. God is with us to help us. And God uses people to assist other people in their struggles. Let us be open to God’s Presence and provision for us and be sensitive to the opportunities God gives us to help others.

Jamie Jenkins