Archives for the month of: November, 2013

An attitude of gratitude is always appropriate. Today is Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday in the United States, and we are especially reminded of our history and encouraged to reflect on our many, and often mundane, blessings.

I am thankful for…
• Good health
• The beautiful world
• Weekends so I can eat sweets
• Atlanta Braves- even with the trades of McCann and Hudson and the move to Cobb County (although I have mixed feelings about each of those changes)
• Lena’s love for gardening
• Birds singing in my back yard
• A car that won’t leave me stranded
• Airplanes- otherwise it would take soooo long to travel great distances
• God that loves me as I am, forgives me when I ask, helps me to be better, and is always with me
• Doctors, nurses, and others who provide good health care for our physical, mental, and spiritual selves
• The diversity of people that I meet everywhere I go
• Cuties and Clementines (of the citrus type)
• Good food and a wide variety of it
• Babies’ smiles
• The Church
• My wife of 45 years (come Dec. 28)
• Two fabulously wonderful grandchildren
• My/our three children
• The wonderful daughter-in-law and son-in-law that love their spouses
• Opportunities to be challenged and to serve
• Coffee in the morning
• Ice cream anytime
• Church music
• B.B. King, “Lucille,” and “the blues” like only they can do it
• Sermons that challenge, teach, and encourage
• Courteous drivers
• Adventurous spirits
• Folks who practice a religion that values head and heart
• Friends who love me enough to tell me the truth
• People who laugh easily
• All the saints past and present
• The daily newspaper comics. (Yes, I still read “the paper.”)
• Artists who see beauty in creation that I might miss
• People who say “thank you” instead of “no problem”
• Good customer service when shopping
• A warm bed on a cold night. (I know there are many who do not have that luxury.)
• The smell of popcorn
• The voices of my grandchildren
• A competitive game of ping pong
• Crisp apples with peanut butter or cheddar cheese
• The soulful sound of Etta James or Ella Fitzgerald
• People who don’t have to honk their horns for you to know they love Jesus
Jamie Jenkins

I just returned from a two week cruise to Turkey and Greece. Retirement is good! We saw some beautiful country and explored many wonderful ancient and modern sites. Saw a lot and learned a lot.

The ship carried about 2,000 passengers and 946 crew members from all over the world. There were some very obvious differences in language, dress, and customs. I am sure that many different religions were embraced and practiced among the population of this floating city.

The first night my wife and shared a table at dinner with a retired American couple. We had not even finished the salad before they began to share with us their politics. There was no uncertainty about their views on several significant social issues. They must have been extremely confident that their perspective was correct because they never asked what we thought. Although we saw this man and woman several other times during the trip, we did not have dinner with them again.

One morning we invited a couple to share our table at breakfast. They were from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Our conversation began with inquiries about each other’s place of origin, employment, reasons for taking this cruise, our families, and other things of mutual interest. It was a delightful beginning of a relationship that continued throughout the two weeks. On several occasions we visited with each other and shared our experiences. I hope we will find other opportunities to be together.

We met another couple, both ordained clergy from a different denomination than mine, who were in their eighties. After 43 years as missionaries in Japan they returned to Indiana to be near their family. During their years of missionary service they helped start an orphanage for Japanese children who had one parent who was black. They had traveled all over the world and possessed a wealth of wisdom which they shared with such gentleness. You wanted the conversations to go on and on.

There was an elderly couple (that means they were older than me) with whom we sat at breakfast one day. We discovered rather quickly that they were very active members of a church in Michigan. The husband sang in the choir and occasionally sang solos. I would later hear him sing and he had a rich and strong voice. During our breakfast conversation he said, “I don’t want to get into your theology but what do you Methodists think about women ministers?” I suspect he already knew and he was not surprised that my answer presented a different perspective from his. But he was not defensive or argumentative about it.

Although I did not get into deep conversations with them, I enjoyed the camaraderie of the men with whom I played ping pong on several occasions. There was Arie from Hong Kong- now living in Australia, Chris from India, John and Richard from England, George from Germany and others from different other parts of the world. Most likely we would have discovered many differences if we had taken the time and effort. Instead, we just enjoyed our common love for ping pong and friendly competition.

The more I travel, the more people I encounter, and the different cultures I experience the more I am convinced that God delights in our differences. If not, why would God have created us in so many different colors and allowed so many different languages and cultures to develop. I just wish that all of us could find value in our similarities and not make so much of our differences.

Jamie Jenkins

In today’s world it is easy to be connected with people all over the world. Our Skype visits and Face Time conversations with friends and business associates is almost like being physically present in spite of vast distances.

At the same time, technology has the potential to cause us to be impersonal and our relationships to lack authenticity. But distance between us and lack of the personal touch and the absence of care for each is not a recent phenomenon.

Almost 50 years ago Jean Mizer, an Idaho teacher and guidance counselor wrote about a tragic incident in her school. The story was first published in the NEA Journal in 1964. It won first prize in the first Reader’s Digest/NEA Journal writing competition. It has since been frequently reprinted and was made into a movie in 1973.

The story is about Cliff Evans, described as “a lonely, withdrawn boy ridiculed by schoolmates, invisible to teachers, and mistreated at home. Living in an environment devoid of love gradually reduces him to “a cipher”(meaning, literally, “zero”).”
One morning he gets on the school bus and then asks to be let off. When the bus stopped he stepped off the bus and collapsed and died in the snow.

The principal asked the boy’s math teacher to go tell his parents and write the obituary. The teacher, who admitted that he did not know the boy, asked why he was the one to break the horrible news. The principal replied that “last year you were listed as his favorite teacher.”

The teacher wrote of the dead student, “I could guess how many times he had been chosen last to play sides in a game, how many whispered child conversations had excluded him, how many times he hadn’t been asked. I could hear and see the faces that said over and over, ‘You’re nothing, Cliff Evans’.”

He went on to say that although the doctor might list “heart failure” as the cause of death, he was convinced it was because everyone told him he was a nobody and “a child is a believing creature. Cliff undoubtedly believed them.”

There was not even ten people who knew Cliff Evans well enough to want to attend his funeral. After recruiting a delegation to go, the teacher resolved never to let this happen to anyone else. He vowed that in the future he would not “have one of (his students) coming out of his class thinking himself a zero.”

I suspect that there are people in our spheres of influence who feel like they are a “nothing” and nobody cares about them. People who go unnoticed every day. People who are special creations of the Almighty. And we ignore them. We are too busy to see them. Just a little attention and affection, a little encouragement could prevent them from becoming “ciphers in the snow.”

Let us be sensitive to others around us and know that we can make a difference in their lives.

Jamie Jenkins

Due to technical difficulties there will be no Thoughts for Thursday today. Look for the next edition on Nov. 14.