Archives for the month of: August, 2013

“It’s not fair” is something I hear often when my grandchildren are visiting. This is usually uttered with a whine when one child thinks his or her sibling has been allowed to do or have something which they have not.

My reply is usually an attempt to help them understand that life is not “fair” and they need to understand that reality.

It is not fair that one person…
• is born into poverty and another into wealth.
• just looks at food and gains pounds while another person eats everything they want and never gains an ounce.
• is genetically pre-disposed to bad health and another seems to be healthy as a horse with no effort.
It is not fair that …
• some people are intellectually gifted and others are mentally challenged.
• hundreds of drivers speed along the expressway above the legal limit but I am the one who gets a ticket.
• some folks seem to get all the breaks and others don’t seem to have a chance.

If you are an Atlanta Braves fan, you know that Evan Gattis, Tyler Pasternicky, and Ramiro Pena are rookies who have made significant contributions to the team this year but each has spent time on the Disabled List due to injuries, some very serious. Add these to Tim Hudson’s season ending broken ankle and Jason Heyward’s broken jaw after being hit in the face with a 90 MPH pitch just when he was at his best. It doesn’t seem fair.

“Life is given to each of us. We each get one shot at this sucker, and we are never really told that it will be fair. We each get one life, one daily wage, and that’s it. The guy next door gets one life to live. The mom down the street gets one too. No one ever promised us the same life, the same opportunities, the same blessings, or the same time to live. No one ever promised that. We are promised one opportunity, one life, and how we live it is between us and our Creator. There is no comparing.” (Susan Niebur, Toddler Planet)

Mark Banschick, M.D, writing in Psychology Today says “… there are times that I think that the word ‘fair’ is just another nasty four letter word. There is hurt in the notion of fair. Sometimes there is value in holding onto a sense of justice (that your world should be fair) and sometimes you must be adult enough to give it up.”

“Scratch the surface of a religion, get away from the children’s stories, and sometimes you can find a wisdom that is a source of its greatness. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the author is the wisest of men who tells us that life just happens and that even he with all his learning cannot fathom it.”

The parable of the workers in the vineyard in the Bible (Matthew 20) is difficult for some to understand and accept. People who were hired at different times of the day all received the same pay. Those who started work early thought they should have received more than those who came on later. But each one received what they had been promised. What’s wrong with getting what you have been promised?

We are not promised a life that is fair but we do have Jesus’ promise that it can be full. (John 10:10). I’ll take “full” over “fair.” How about you?

Jamie Jenkins

Normally I don’t listen to talk radio. But the other day I thought it was the top of the hour so I tuned my car radio to hear the newscast. Unfortunately I was a couple of minutes early and I caught the radio personality as he was ranting against someone.

He said, “He is just like every other _______.” Then he added, “But we are interested in what is best for everyone.”

I do not know who the person was that he was castigating nor what the issue was that he was so worked up over. I do know that I am glad I had been spared the earlier part of his speech.

I believe it is human and healthy to hold different opinions. We can learn from one another IF we allow open and respectful dialogue. But when one person or group is made to appear as morons, maniacs, or mean people who don’t care about anyone but themselves, much harm results.

When “I” think “you” are wrong and “you” think “I” am wrong, we are in trouble. Life is not that simplistic. That attitude leads us to places we don’t need to go and prevents conversations that we need to have.

We do not live in a world where bad guys always wear black and good guys always wear white.

I am a person with strong opinions and I am not timid about expressing them. I want my voice heard and my position understood. It is not nearly as important to me that anyone agree with me as it is that others hear me and respect me. At the same time I am willing to give everyone the same privilege.

Civil dialogue is a healthy and helpful exercise.

I believe in a God who knows all things and is all-wise. But God is the only One that has all knowledge and possesses all wisdom. Every single human being is limited and it is incredible that anyone would presume to have THE right answer.

The Bible tells us that God is no “respecter of persons” (I Corinthians 10:34). In other words, God’s creation is intended to be diverse and God doesn’t show partiality to any group of people over another. All are loved and respected equally. That does not mean that everyone is “right” and that God approves of every attitude and action. But every individual is made in the image of God and is loved by God. Every person has sacred worth and deserves to be treated with dignity.

It does not matter if I am young or old. White or black or brown. Rich or poor. Exceptional or just plain ordinary. Married or single. Gay or straight. Christian or Muslim. Democrat or Republican. Liberal or conservative. Male or female.

It is not necessary to agree with one another but it is essential that we love one another. Each one of us is a unique creation of God who is worthy of love and respect.

Jamie Jenkins

Have you ever got a song stuck in your head and could not get rid of it? This can be terribly irritating but sometimes it can be amusing and even helpful.
Last weekend during a torrential rain a silly little song that I learned in church popped into my head and I began singing:

The Lord told Noah to build him an arky, arky
The Lord told Noah to build him an arky, arky
Build it out of gopher barky, barky
Children of the Lord.

That song has hung around in my head since last Saturday night. I have tried to eliminate it by substituting the words and music of other secular and religious songs but it won’t go away. I can’t seem to purge it. (And yes, I know the King James Version of Genesis 6:14 says God told Noah to use gopher wood.)

On other occasions the lyrics and tunes of radio and television commercials have lodged in my brain and refused to leave. Every time I see the trucks of a particular plumbing company that are painted pink, the company’s jingle leaps to my mind.

As I drive around Atlanta I often hear the commercial for a local pest control company. The rhyming silliness reminds me who to call to solve my problems with pests.
When I seem out of step with the mainstream but am confident that I am on the right track, I can hear Frank Sinatra sing:

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Song writers, entertainers, and advertisers recognize the power of music and have employed it for altruistic and economic purposes.
Oliver Sacks, writing in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, says music has “a peculiar power over us, a power delectable and beneficent for the most part, but also capable of uncontrollable and sometimes destructive force.”

The lyrics or the musical chords can be magical and mysterious. Music can inspire the spirit and incite the emotions. It can provoke action or tears. It can promote a product or produce a sense of well being. Katherine Neville says “music has the power to create a universe or destroy a civilization.”

I suspect that both Neville and Sacks have loftier ideas than I have in mind at this writing. But I think they are right and even simple little songs can be powerful.

I have sung that little “arky, arky” song many times in gatherings of youth and children. Perhaps it is a good thing that it is stuck in my head because the chorus of this energetic tune reminds me to “Give God the glory, glory (because we are) Children of the Lord.”

Jamie Jenkins

A current television ad suggests that your dreams can come true if you play the lottery. While there are some who have become instant millionaires by picking the right numbers, millions of others have lost money that they could not afford hoping to strike it rich.

Rather than launch an attack on the lottery and other forms of gambling I simply want to express the opinion that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

Although there is not certainty about the origin of that phrase, one possibility is that it stems from a statement made by Henry Wallace, U.S Vice-President 1941-1945. In an article published in the Atlantic Monthly he suggested a post-WWII worldwide economic regime offering “minimum standards of food, clothing and shelter” for people throughout the world and offering the opinion: “If we can afford tremendous sums of money to win the war, we can afford to invest whatever amount it takes to win the peace”.

One journalist responded by saying, “Mr. Wallace neglects the fact that such a thing as a ‘free’ lunch never existed. Until man acquires the power of creation, someone will always have to pay for a free lunch.”

Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes are probably the most famous and most dreamed-about sweepstakes in America. They really do award amazing prizes to lucky winners on a regular basis. However, the odds are extremely small that you will be one of those winners. The estimated odds of winning a $10 million sweepstake is about one in 2 billion. That means if you entered every day, it would take you over one million years to have even odds of winning.

I believe it is true that everything has a price. I guess the question is who pays for it? The “something for nothing” mentality is all too common and not healthy.

Before you write me off as some raving maniac, let me say that I am not just talking about games of chance. I realize that there is an element of chance in all of life. Investing in the stock market or setting aside money for a rainy day all come with the hope of gain but with the risk of loss.

My concern is that we don’t always look for the easy way out. The quick fix. Henry David Thoreau warned that “The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.”  At best it leads to to disappointment and disillusionment. And failure to reach one’s potential because of the unwillingness to apply oneself and whatever resources that are available.

The Parable of the Talents in the Bible illustrates what I am attempting to say. The story tells us about three people each of whom are given a certain amount of “talents.” Not everyone has the same. Some have a little. Some have a lot. It is a story of opportunity and responsibility, investment and return, faithfulness and reward. Faithfulness is rewarded and unfaithfulness is condemned. It is a matter of responsibly using the opportunities presented 

Each one of us has been entrusted with enormous resources. Time. Energy.Abilities. Money. Influence. Opportunity. These resources are not really ours but we have been allowed to manage them. One day the Owner will call us into account. May we be found faithful in utilizing them for the benefit of humankind and the glory of God.

Jamie Jenkins

In 1996 my daughter went to Humboldt State University in northern California as an exchange student for one year. The next year my son went to Taiwan to teach English for one year. It is now 2013 and he is still in Asia and she is still in California. They have pursued their careers and created a life for themselves. As a result of their marriages in those distant places our family has been expanded to include people in Japan and California.

Although these two offspring are thousands of miles away we can be with them through the internet in real time and by air in just a few hours. While Tokyo and Santa Rosa are geographically far away, we have discovered that we live in a relatively small world thanks to advances in technology and transportation.

I am not only aware that our world is getting smaller and our family is growing but I am reminded of the connections we have with our larger human family. Recently my wife and I met a Chinese couple in Hyannis, Massachusetts. In spite of the language barriers we learned that they had a grandson who was a student at Emory University. The fact that we live in Atlanta and my son and I are Emory graduates created a bond between two couples with different cultural and language backgrounds.

As we continued our travels we met other “neighbors.” On Martha’s Vineyard there was an African-American family from Decatur whose son just graduated from the Lovett School in Buckhead. At a New England sugar house we ran into a Georgia Tech employee and his family from Fulton County. While eating pizza in Lancaster, New Hampshire we met a young couple whose relationship began while they were working at the CDC and the directors of the Synchronicity Theater in Atlanta are their friends.

In Burlington, Vermont Lena and I renewed our friendship with a retired United Methodist minister and his wife whom we met almost twenty years ago. As we enjoyed lunch overlooking Lake Champlain we learned that their daughter works at the United Methodist Children’s Home in Macon and their grandson is a student at Georgia Tech.

We became acquainted with a retired Cobb County fireman who was traveling with his wife on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Their plan was to touch the four corners of the United States- Key West, Florida, a small town in northeastern Maine, San Diego, California, and Seattle, Washington. His parting words to me were, “See you when we get home.” Thinking he meant when we both got back to Atlanta I commented that I hoped our paths would cross again. But he pointed upward and said, “I mean our final home. We are both Believers, aren’t we?”

By the time we reached Rochester, New York we had traveled over 3,000 miles and my car needed an oil change. One of the technicians that was servicing my vehicle had just returned from Georgia where he visited his parents in College Park and his brother in Buckhead. He said he would really like some more southern fried chicken. Two days later we were at a Braves-White Sox game in Chicago and the young man immediately behind us was a graduate of the University of Georgia who had grown up in Roswell. We also learned that the young couple seated next to us was leaving the next day to come to Athens where they were being transferred with his job.

I am the third of four children and my wife is one of eleven children. Most of our relatives live in Alabama but we have a niece in Ecuador and a nephew in Nepal. As I think of them and remember the folks I met during the recent road trip, I realize that we live in a small world but have a large family.

One of James Taylor’s songs calls us to “recognize that there are ties between us, all men and women living on the earth. Ties of hope and love. Sister and brotherhood.”

The Bible instructs us to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9). If we can realize that every human being is our brother or sister and treat them like “family” the world would be a better place. So “dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God” (I John 4:7).

Jamie Jenkins 

Have you had experiences that made you aware of how the world is getting smaller? What has helped you to realize that we are bound together in one human family? I would like to hear from you.