Archives for the month of: January, 2013

I experienced a moment of grace the other day.

I was cruising along on Interstate 20 east of Atlanta and not thinking about how fast I was driving. A glance at the rear view mirror revealed a police car immediately behind me. Although I was not aware of the speed limit, I was sure that I was exceeding it.

My heart began to race as I quickly pulled into the lane to my right expecting the officer to follow me. Instead he remained in his lane and as I slowed my speed he slowed accordingly. He did not pass or pull in behind me as I further reduced my speed down to what I then knew was the limit. We continued for a few minutes at the speed limit with me in the “slow” lane and him just behind me in the “fast” lane. If he was going to pull me over and give me a ticket, why didn’t he go ahead and do it?

Finally the police officer slowly advanced until he was driving right beside me. He continued to keep pace with me for what seemed like eternity. I deliberately kept my focus straight ahead thinking that if I avoided eye contact he would go on. In a little while I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see him looking at me. When I turned and looked his way he nodded slightly, smiled, and drove away.

Whew! When I first caught the glimpse of that police car in my rear view mirror I instinctively knew I was speeding. Caught. I could already see the officer writing a ticket and my anger (at myself) because of how much the fine would be and the increase in my insurance premium as a result.

What a relief as the officer drove on without stopping me and issuing a citation for speeding! Grace- not getting what I deserved. Grace is a free gift and I had just received it in the form of forgiveness without penalty. At that moment I was keenly aware I had been spared a penalty that I rightly deserved. I breathed a sigh of relief and whispered a prayer of gratitude.

There have been other times in my life that I have not fared so well. I have paid my share of traffic fines. There have been other experiences when I transgressed the law or violated a moral principle and was penalized.

Perhaps the greatest examples of grace in my life are not to be seen in the occasions when I didn’t get what I deserved but in the times that I “paid the price” and learned from the painful experience. The fact that I have survived the “bad times” is certainly evidence of God’s grace. Whether grace has been imparted in very ordinary circumstances or more extraordinary- maybe even supernatural- occurrences, I thank God. And I believe that on every occasion when I have been conscious of the gift of grace my attitudes and actions have been altered, perhaps ever so slightly, and have made me a better person.

I am grateful for the grace I receive and pray that I will be the instrument of grace in the lives of others.

Jamie Jenkins

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Dreams are powerful motivators. Great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment come when they are realized. Discouragement and depression can result when a dream is not fulfilled.

Three days ago the country celebrated the national holiday commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That day cannot pass without remembering his famous I Have a Dream speech of 1963. He dreamed that we would “rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.” He called for us “to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”

We have made progress toward that goal and that dream is still alive in the hearts of many today. The hope is that we will continue until it is fully realized.

In Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables, Fantine is a young working class woman in Paris who is the mother of a child born out of wedlock. After being fired from her factory job she eventually resorts to prostitution in an effort to provide for her daughter Cosette. In her struggle to survive as she suffers the indignity of this lifestyle, she becomes desperate and disillusioned. One of the most moving scenes in the musical version is when she thinks back to happier days and wonders at all that has gone wrong in her life. She laments,

I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving

Then she shares her sad life experience.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your dreams apart
And they turn your dreams to shame.

“Tigers” are sometimes from the outside of ourselves- untrustworthy people, destructive or deceitful philosophies, systems that are not designed for the good of all, and many more. But many of them are internal. They include, but are not limited to, unbridled passion, uncontrolled emotions, greed, hatred, prejudice, laziness, and dishonesty. If the “tigers,” whether internal or external, are not recognized and tamed, we will discover as did Fantine that they “kill the dreams we dream.”

Jamie Jenkins

Don’t miss the Oprah show tonight (and tomorrow night) although you may not learn anything new. Volumes have been written since her interview with Lance Armstrong earlier this week.

After years of denial Lance Armstrong has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) during his phenomenal cycling career. He and Oprah agreed not to divulge the contents of the interview until it aired today but shortly after the interview the news media began reporting that he confessed to doping.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and in October 2012 he was banned from the sport for life by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

“Armstrong made millions of dollars on a fairy tale that turned out to be a ruse,” said one sports writer. Why did he decide to come clean now? There is a lot of speculation but we really don’t know. What we do know, or at least expect the interview to confirm, is that this much celebrated but now disgraced athlete lied repeatedly about his use of PEDs.

Armstrong’s fight to overcome testicular cancer made him a hero to millions. The good work of his Livestrong Foundation has been significant. It appeared that these and his seven Tour de France wins would be his legacy. Now all that is tarnished. It is a reminder of Shakespeare’s admonition that “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

Last week the Baseball Writers’ Association did not elect anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There were 569 ballots cast, the third highest total in the history of the voting, but none of the 37 candidates received the required 75 percent for election.

This was the first time since 1996 and the eighth time in its history that no one has been elected to the Hall of Fame. Notably overlooked this year were three players who posted outstanding statistics during their career but there is a great cloud over their achievements. Although each of them has denied the allegations, suspicion lingers in the minds of many that the accomplishments of Roger Clements, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds were aided by the illegal use of steroids. That shadow might have effected the Hall of Fame voting. Maybe this was the writer’s way of saying “Liar, liar, pants on fire.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, recalling her upbringing, remarked: “We learned about honesty and integrity- that the truth matters.. that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules… and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.”

Someone said that fly fishermen are born honest, but they get over it. This humorous comment is a way of reminding us that good people sometimes exaggerate. Sometimes we tell “little white lies.” Our memories are not always accurate. But a bottom line character trait that all people need to strive for and practice is honesty.

It has been said that honesty is the best policy. For the Christian, it is the only policy.

Jamie Jenkins

I know I should read the Bible more. And I need to be more familiar with the literary classics. The New York Times Best Seller list would probably provide excellent material to stimulate my brain. A steady diet of professional journals would enhance my theological and philosophical awareness.

My spirit and mind might be enriched by more reading in all of the types of publications above. I admit that I am terribly deficient in all of those categories. I need to discipline myself to consume more of the writings that challenge the mind and inspire the soul. However, at the risk of sounding shallow and immature I admit that the comics are my favorite things to read. I enjoy what in a bygone era was called the “funnies.”

I start most of my days with two cups of coffee, prepared the night before so all I have to do is press the button on the coffee maker in the morning. Along with my coffee and before anyone else is awake in the house I read the newspaper. I know, almost nobody reads the daily newspaper anymore. I know it is online and can be updated the instant something new happens. I have a digital subscription and can read everything on my computer, iPhone, or Kindle. But I enjoy sitting down and holding the paper in my hands as I read and drink my coffee at the start of the day.

The news of the world, the state, and my local community is there in Sections A and B of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sports news is covered in Section C. There are also sections for business news and other daily featured topics. I read, or at least scan, most of it but I am especially interested in getting to the last page of Section D. That is where the Comics are usually located (yeah, I know they are online too).

Old standbys like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, and Peanuts are there. And if you ever had children you can probably identify with Baby Blues, Family Circus, or One Big Happy. Every parent of teenagers can find themselves and their family in Zits. Stone Soup gives a glimpse into some of the joys and challenges of single parent and blended family homes. Cat lovers should appreciate the insights that are shared in Garfield. Darby Conley, creator of Get Fuzzy, and Stephan Pastis, who writes and draws Pearls Before Swine, have the weirdest and most delightful sense of humor. I would love to meet them.

Don’t misunderstand me, I know the value of daily devotional reading and I take the Bible seriously. The intellectual stimulation from other forms of literature is important. The continued acquisition of technical knowledge is essential. But the smile on my face, the chuckle or belly laugh that often occurs as I read the comics is healthy and good. You may not need the comics, but I do.

Jamie Jenkins

Email is wonderful but be careful before you hit send. You can send a message anytime you want and it is on its way immediately. That is a good thing- sometime.

There is an old saying: Measure twice; cut once. That is wise advice for the times you are doing some home improvements but the principle can be broadly applied. It certainly is appropriate wisdom related to communication, whether spoken or written.

Recently I had some charges on a credit card that did not seem correct. Before I disputed them with the credit card company I contacted the merchant. At the manager’s request I sent copies of my credit card statement with the items in question. When I did not receive a prompt reply, I contacted him again and was informed that he was away for a few days but his assistant would handle it.

After reviewing my correspondence the assistant advised me by email that that the charges were correct. I responded to her email to further explain my position and I copied her boss so everyone could be on the same page. In just a couple of minutes I received a reply from the manager. The tone and language of the email were very disrespectful and demeaning. It was obvious that I was not the intended recipient.

Subsequent correspondence clarified that the email was intended for the manager’s assistant and not me, the customer. The manager had expressed his opinion hastily and hit “send.” He expressed his thoughts but they were misdirected. The follow up apology made it clear that he realized his mistake but it was too late.

Who among us has not been guilty of speaking before thinking? A thought occurs and it is formed into words and they are spoken before realizing they are inappropriate or harmful. A little time and the thoughts would have been framed differently or maybe not expressed at all. It may be that our wisest words are the ones we do not say.

Words are powerful. They can hurt or heal. Build bridges or create chasms. Inflame or inspire. Motivate or irritate. Napoleon Hill offers this advice: “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

Joel Osteen says, “You can change your world by changing your words…Remember, death and life are in the power of the tongue.” The Bible reminds us that “the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts wildly… a small flame (that) can set a whole forest on fire” (James 3:5 Common English Bible).

A good New Year’s resolution might be “I will think before I speak or ‘send.”

Jamie Jenkins