Archives for the month of: April, 2013

Everyone makes mistakes. Unless you do nothing. And that would be a mistake.

George Bernard Shaw said, “A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”  Perhaps the greatest mistake is continually being afraid you will make one.

An old saying declares that to err is human. In other words, human beings are imperfect and are going to make mistakes. Therefore we should not be too harsh on someone (or our self) when mistakes are made.

There are many reasons why we make mistakes. Limited or incorrect information can cause a person to engage in inappropriate actions or give voice to thoughts that should be kept silent. Sometimes because we want to “do it my way” we stubbornly act in ways that are not helpful. At other times, we attempt to do something that is beyond our ability. Mistakes are often the result of “biting off more than I can chew.”

The good news is that most mistakes are not fatal. Although at the moment you may be embarrassed beyond words at something foolish that you did, chances are it will soon be forgotten- at least by others. You have to give yourself the same privilege and put it behind you.

Ralph Sockman told the story of  two men standing on the edge of Niagara Falls on a cold wintry day watching as birds swooped down to get a drink. As the birds would dive, tiny drops of ice would form on their wings. Each return trip added more ice to their tiny bodies until some became too heavy to fly and would drop over the falls to their death. In like manner failure to see and admit an error can have serious consequences. Many mistakes can be easily corrected but first you have to recognize them.

James Joyce tells us that “mistakes can be the portals of discovery.” You take a wrong turn and you find a new scenic route to a destination that you would not have known if you had not made that mistake. You misread the recipe but the result is pleasing because you put the “wrong” ingredient into the mix. You try something and it does not turn out the way you wanted but that mistake enables you to figure out a better way to accomplish your goal. It is possible to learn from your mistakes.

Some of our mistakes cause harm either to our self or to someone else. If the injury is self inflicted, then we have to accept the consequence knowing that we can survive the damage. When our mistakes cause pain or difficulty for others, it is important to admit our misdeed or misspoken words. Healing and forgiveness are then possible but they must be actively pursued.

When “mistakes” are immoral or unethical behavior, we call them “sin.”  Susannah Wesley helped her young son John understand the difference between “mistakes” and “sins.”  She made the distinction this way: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things–that to you is sin.”

But there is good news for sinful “mistakes.” “If we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them— (Jesus) will forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (I John 1:9). We can be assured that Christ knows all our mistakes and sins. Still He loves us and forgives us.

That is the Good News about mistakes.

Jamie Jenkins

Atlanta is the only major metropolitan city in the U.S. that is built in a forest. That is how a local television meteorologist explained the extremely high pollen count of 8000 last week.

I join thousands of Atlantans who suffer with runny nose, itching eyes, and constant sneezing during this season. I don’t like the greenish yellow dust that covers my car and everything else around. But I am glad spring has arrived after a cold and wet winter.

The jonquils and daffodils have come and gone. The beautiful but short life of the cherry blossoms is over. Azaleas are beginning to bloom. The grass and trees are starting to green up. The pink flowers of the burgundy-leaf loropetalum have bloomed. The dogwoods can be scattered through the woods. Soon the bright yellow forsythia will flower. And the wisteria is everywhere.

Wisteria has been called the South’s most beautiful vine. It was named in honor of an anatomy professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Caspar Wistar (1761-1818). There are ten species of this deciduous vine, two are native to the southern United States and the others are native to Asia. I understand that many people actually plant it in their landscapes. The species that are common to this region host beautiful large drooping clusters of lavender flowers.

These vigorous, twining vines can grow ten feet or more in one year. So if you are thinking about including them in your landscape, you must be extremely diligent to keep them pruned. Wisteria will climb any supporting structure- a tree, pergola, wall. If allowed to grow on your house, serious damage can be expected.

The world’s largest known Wisteria vine is in Sierra Madre, California, planted in 1894, measures more than one acre in size and weighs 250 tons.

Because of its highly invasive nature I am not eager to plant any Wisteria in our backyard. However, I am grateful for the extensive growth on the trees that line the streets and highways all around the city.

The highly invasive nature of wisteria calls for diligence in control so that the value of its beauty can be preserved. It provides an analogy for life. Many things (perhaps most things) have the potential to be helpful or harmful. The expression of “too much of a good thing” illustrates the truth that even “good” things can be “bad” if balance is not maintained.

We need to value the “wisterias” in our life and our world while carefully and prayerfully exercising spiritual disciplines to control the destructive potential.

Jamie Jenkins

It has been said that there are two things that are in certain- death and taxes. They are inevitable. You can count on it. Can’t avoid them.

Taxes are an integral part of daily life. Sales tax is added every time you buy a hamburger or pair of shoes. Rent a hotel room or car and there is an additional amount added. I you are a homeowner, annual property tax bills arrive in the fall. Social Security taxes are deducted from your income.

Then there are the federal and state income taxes. We are just four days away from the deadline for filing those tax returns. It is a dreaded but necessary (?) part of life.

As with taxes, death is also unavoidable. At least the last time I checked that was the case. Country music legend Hank Williams said it sixty years ago, “No matter how I struggle and strive, I’ll never get out of this world alive.” Ironically the recording was the last single to be released during Williams’ lifetime. He died of a heart attack at the age of 29 in the backseat of his powder blue 1952 Cadillac in the early hours of New Years Day 1953. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Country Singles chart posthumously later that month.

Taxes and death have some similarities. There are both positive and negative aspects to each. Both have deadlines. Taxes are due at the point of sale, income cycle, or some established date. There is not a lot of room for negotiation. Although not as certain as taxes, the Bible says that “People are destined to die once and then face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). I don’t believe that this “deadline” (no pun intended) is as definite as the April 15 date mandated by the IRS for filing income taxes, but life on this earth will come to an end for all persons at some point in time.

While there are reasons to dread both taxes and death, there are also benefits to both. Your attitude toward them depends on whether you focus on what you lose or what you gain. Schools, roads, police and fire protection, public utilities, supplemental retirement income, and sometimes football stadiums are funded through taxes. While they can become burdensome, we enjoy and expect the benefits that taxes provide. We Christians believe that there is life after death and it is without the troubles and trials of earthly existence.

Another thing that death and taxes have in common is the fact that although you cannot avoid them, you can prepare for them and that takes some of the sting away. We are given instructions to help in our preparations. The instructions from the Bible on how to prepare for death may not always be easy to understand, but it is much simpler than what the Internal Revenue Service offers on how to complete your income tax forms.

There is a whole lot more that could be said about death and taxes, but I have to get back to completing my Form 1040 before next Monday.

Jamie Jenkins

Today is a sad day for me. And a happy day. My wife and I have two grandchildren, a brother and sister who live in Japan. They are 7 and almost 10 ½.

Jamie and Felicia have been with us for the past three weeks. This is a brief break before their school year begins. Next week Jamie begins 5th grade and Felicia will be a 1st grader in Japanese public schools.

It has been a fun and full three weeks. We have gone to the movies, a Braves game, rock climbing, to see the Harlem Globetrotters, the Atlanta History Center, and church. We have played mini-golf, bowling, ping pong (Jamie is real competition for me now), tennis, soccer, and several board games. There has been some shopping (not their favorite activity- except for the toy department at Target), working in the yard (they are really good help), and making crafts with Nana. Friends have brought their grandchildren to visit and play with Jamie and Felicia.

Today they are on their way back to their home in Tokyo. It is hard to put them on the plane for that long flight and to know that it will be months before we will see them again- except by webcam. I am always a little sad when they leave.

It is wonderful that we get to have the grandkids for a couple of extended visits each year. Our time together is a great gift and we are so grateful that their parents are willing to allow and encourage those visits. And thank God for non-stop airline flights that make this possible. As they head home today I realize that we are making memories and that makes me happy.

I would really like it if all my children and grandchildren lived close by. They don’t need to live next door but it would be nice if they were close enough that we could see each other often. But that is not the case and I am reconciled to that.

I have not arrived at the place of the Apostle Paul to be able to say that “I have learned to be content in whatever state I am in.” However I do understand that everything is not always going to be the way I want it to be and I have learned to accept that fact. I don’t have to be “satisfied” with things as they are but there are times when I need to recognize the reality that I need to live with. The best choice is to accept it and make the most of it.

Our family situation is just one of many examples that could be offered of circumstances that are different than what one would call ideal. Every day presents situations where reality is not the most desirable state. Nevertheless we must take life one day at a time and face every opportunity or obstacle as an occasion for good. We have the option to see the glass as half full or half empty. To focus on what we have or what we do not have.

The Serenity Prayer that has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs offers wise counsel to everyone.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Jamie Jenkins