Archives for the month of: June, 2013

I love milkshakes. As I was running errands last week I remembered that Chic-Fil-A offers one of my favorites, peach, when the fruit is in season. So it was not unusual for me to decide that I would stop by for one. Large, of course. With whipped cream and a cherry on top.

Then I realized that it was not Saturday.

What does that have to do with having a milkshake? Almost five years ago I decided to make some minor alterations to my diet. Nothing drastic but slight changes that might help. I have not had a weight problem but I do have a “waist” problem. For some reason my mid-section seems to be growing at a faster pace than the rest of my body. My body shape is beginning to look like a pear.

I have always had a sweet tooth. If it is sweet I love it. And my high metabolism has allowed me to eat more than I should and things that I should not without gaining weight- until recent years. So I decided that I needed to do some things differently.

One thing I did was to stop eating sweets during the week. From Friday night through Sunday night I can eat whatever I want but not the rest of the week. For forty years or more I ate a bowl of ice cream just about every night. Giving up ice cream was the biggest change.

Now you understand why I could not have that peach milkshake- since it was Tuesday, not Saturday. When I came home and told my wife she said, “You are going to have a lot of ‘Saturdays’.”

I hadn’t thought about retirement in those terms but Lena was right. No more work schedules that had ordered my life for most of my years. I have worked for so long I cannot remember not being employed and having to adhere to some kind of schedule to accomplish my work.

Even when my schedule has been flexible and often up to my discretion I have needed time lines and accountability check points to help order my life. I am a reasonably disciplined person but I need some structure to my days, weeks, and months.

Now I am on my own. I have been told that retirement makes me a “free man.” That is good and I am happy to have reached this stage in life but I will have to discover ways to use my time wisely while enjoying the freedom that retirement provides.

My friend Marjorie Kimbrough has written a book, Order My Steps, (Abingdon Press) where she suggests that we can and should let God plan our day. In the introduction to the book that offers “Bible moments to start the day” she says, “I need and want to stay on the path that God has directed for me.  I want him to order my steps.” Me too, Marjorie.

In the absence of a schedule dictated by professional responsibilities and the expectations of others I realize that I must be more proactive in seeking God’s direction for my days. I will need to be very intentional to maintain a daily devotional life and to regularly engage in corporate worship. I want to make all of my “Saturdays” count in this new stage of life.

With the psalmist I pray, “Lord, teach me to number my days (to make them count) so I can have a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12)

Jamie Jenkins
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How do you measure success? Is it when you are     

  • the head of your class?
  • the leader in your profession?
  • an outstanding athlete?
  • a popular entertainer?
  • elected to high political office?

 Or is it when you

  • get many promotions in your work?
  • receive accolades and applause?
  • achieve approval from your peers?

 Perhaps it is when

  • your investments perform well.
  • your income supports a high standard of living.
  • your children are successful.

These and many other measures are applied to gauge success. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines success as achieving a “favorable or desired outcome.” Reaching one’s goals is certainly desirable but is that “success?”

The question is: Is it success or happiness that we seek?

I read a news story just last week about an Atlanta area businessman who achieved a good level of success and financial security but felt that something was still missing. He left the corporate world and founded an enterprise that helps Latin American coffee growers to be profitable. In that endeavor he has found a sense of fulfillment (happiness).

Dale Carnegie said “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” This suggests that “success” and “happiness” may be distinctively different. I have lived long enough to realize that happiness is often not the result of getting what you want. My Mama used to tell me “your wants won’t hurt you.”  I think a part of what she was saying was that you are not always satisfied when you get whatever it is that you desire.

Some may measure success by the level of popularity or acclaim that one receives. But do they bring happiness? Erma Bombeck cautions not to confuse fame with success. She says, “Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.” You decide which is which and which one you desire.

Happiness is defined as “a state of well-being and contentment.” Success and happiness are necessarily contradictory. I believe it is possible to be both “successful” and “happy.” You can experience fulfillment and financial security while achieving your goals. One is not necessarily exclusive of the other. But contentment is something that cannot be measured by accomplishments or income. It is more than applause or acclaim can provide.

One mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be.” (Philippians 4:11) That is real success.

Jamie Jenkins

This has been a year for lasts. The last time for cabinet events, the last time to travel with the ordinands to Israel, and the last time to plan our schedules around the annual conference schedule.  This has been the last time to do many of the things that have been a part of Jamie’s responsibilities during his forty plus years of ministry.  Many of these things, as his wife, I have had the privilege to share and enjoy.

Jamie’s retirement in July signals changes in the routine of our lives. Not bad changes but change nevertheless. Many of the things we have enjoyed over the years will hopefully continue.  Preaching and teaching for Jamie will continue. Travel and  getting to be with people are things from which we will never retire.

One of the things I will miss the most in retirement is our trips with the folks that have been recently ordained.  People ask me, “How do you manage to enjoy trips to the Holy Land year after year?” The answer: getting to know a new group of clergy and experience the Holy Land through their eyes is an amazing and rewarding adventure. They make the trip new and fresh.

Traveling is an amazing way to get to know people in a short period of time. The trips with the ordinands allow you to observe how they function under different and sometimes difficult circumstances. You are able to observe so much about their personalities very quickly. Do they complain too much (about the food, the weather, anything that comes to mind)? Do they share their call to ministry with joy and enthusiasm?  Do they really care about the folks they have been appointed to serve? Do they have a heart for ministry?  Do they understand what being itinerant means?

My ears and my heart are always waiting to hear how these ordinands love and care for those they are called to serve.  I always come away from these trips feeling good about the future of the United Methodist church because of the strength and commitment of most of these newly ordained clergy.

I do not consider myself a good source of advice to anyone. But if I had the opportunity to do so I would offer this heartfelt advice to new clergy and their families. The one thing that will get you through just about anything is to love, really love, the people. Church folks will forgive almost anything if you show them love.  A smile and a hug or warm handshake will open doors and help you break down barriers. In almost all cases, when you love them they will love you back.

We have had wonderful appointments, with the most amazingly kind and loving church folks. These people have been friends and family to us. They have cared for us as we have cared for them.  Occasionally we would encounter difficulties. Most often there is shared blame for the bad times if not outright our fault.  Being able to listen and accept your responsibility in problems is a gift to yourself and to the church.

What a great adventure these years of ministry have been. I will be forever grateful to God, to Jamie for marrying me and bringing me into this wonderful life, and to The United Methodist Church for the opportunity of a lifetime.

When we complete this year of “last time to do things” we will start on a new year of  ”first”.  We are eagerly awaiting  this new season of first.

Lena Jenkins

In a couple of weeks I will be unemployed.

When I was nine years old my cousin made me a shoe shine box and I began working on the streets of Mobile, Alabama. Since that time sixty years ago I have been engaged in some kind of work that generated income. That will end on June 30th when I begin a new phase of life called retirement.

In 1972 at the age of 28, Lena and I arrived in Georgia with our eight-month old son to begin our first appointment as the student pastor of two Carroll County churches in west Georgia. The folks at the Roopville and Lowell United Methodist churches were wonderful. They launched my pastoral ministry and nurtured us through the three years of living in their parsonage and serving their communities.

After seminary we moved to the Comer Circuit just east of Athens which included the Comer church in Madison County and Glade in Oglethorpe County. I learned so much during those four years and developed a work routine and sermon style that would be a foundation for the future.

The next twelve years were spent serving Bright Star UMC in the growing suburban community of Douglasville west of Atlanta. Those were great times and we were stretched to remain relevant as the church and area population grew. Our children attended six different schools and we were able to become a part of the community life in a way that was very meaningful.

The next and last local church that we served was Aldersgate UMC a couple of miles from the Augusta National, home of the Masters Golf Tournament. After four years I was appointed to be the Atlanta-Marietta District Superintendent. Then four years later the bishop appointed me to the conference staff where I have served in three different roles over the past 14 years.

When the 147th Session of the North Georgia Annual Conference adjourns one week from today, it will be the first time in 41 years that I have not been under episcopal appointment. Now that we are on the brink of that reality I am regularly asked, “What are you going to do now?”

I have answered repeatedly, “I don’t know but I intend to take some time off and try to take it easy. After a while we will see what God has for us.”

Although writing is not my passion or one of my natural gifts, it is a wonderful discipline for me. Therefore, I plan to continue this weekly blog and may consider other writing opportunities.

I was called to preach fifty years ago and that calling has not been retracted. During the months of August and September I have commitments to preach four Sundays in three churches, a six-day campmeeting, and six days of homecomings and revivals. I hope I will continue to have opportunities to preach. Have Bible. Will travel.

Speaking of traveling, Lena and I plan to do some traveling this summer at our own leisurely pace. After that we plan to celebrate my birthday and our daughter’s birthday with her and our son-in-law in California in September and meet our son and his family in Southeast Asia sometime around Christmas. Hopefully we will have more chances to visit all of them more in the future.

Over the years we have had the privilege of leading groups on more than two dozen Holy Land pilgrimages (Israel, Jordan, Egypt). We have also led groups on several Wesley Heritage programs in Great Britain and numerous travel experiences to other places in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. We have been with mission groups to several countries in Central and South America. These journeys have been very meaningful for us and for others as well.

Lena and I will continue to facilitate some group travel experiences in the future. In 2014 we will lead a group to the Holy Land in February, a Tulip Time River Cruise to Holland and Belgium in March, an Alaska cruise and land tour in the summer, and a Mediterranean cruise in October. If you want more information on any of these, contact me.

I do not want or intend to “disappear.” I will continue to follow my call and practice ministry in whatever manner God provides. It is just time to make a change.

I have always functioned with the understanding that if I am doing what I ought to do today, I will be where I need to be for whatever God has for tomorrow. This is just another stage of that ongoing journey- and I am ready for it.

Jamie Jenkins