Archives for the month of: December, 2013

It is the day after Christmas. There is enough food left over from yesterday’s feast to feed us for several days. And some things are better the next day.

There are unwanted or unneeded gifts to put aside to return, exchange or to be used for regifting. Tons of boxes and paper remain after all the presents have been unwrapped and opened. Careful throwing the boxes away, especially for big ticket items. The police warn us that putting them out at the curb with other garbage can alert thieves.

“Empty boxes are a billboard to thieves telling them what is in your house,” said one police official. “The best way to get rid of boxes is to drop them off at a recycling center.”

Retailers will offer wonderful bargains in “After Christmas” sales if you are brave enough to venture out into the shopping mobs. Savvy shoppers know that this is a good time to buy Christmas lights, ornaments, gift wrap, and cards for next year. The day after Christmas is the best time to buy them when merchants want to get them off their shelves.

The “big day” is behind us so out of town relatives and guests will be returning home. Students will be out of the house the next few days hanging out with friends before going back to school. Some folks will resume their routines and return to work today or tomorrow. 

With the festivities concluded many folks will begin to take down the holiday decorations and return the house to its normal state. Others will delay that exercise until after New Year’s celebration or even after Epiphany. 

One thing that remains is that extra weight you gained from eating all those delicious holiday foods. There is a price to pay for all that turkey and dressing, sweet potato soufflé, mashed potatoes and gravy, desserts, and candy. It’s back to the gym or some exercise routine to work it off.

You might not know it but December 26 “is historically one of the most dangerous days of the year for people vulnerable to cardiac problems, including heart attacks, arrhythmias, and heart failure.” One study found that heart related deaths increase by nearly 5% during the holidays, perhaps because patients put off seeking treatment for heart problems or because hospital staffing patterns change.

Doctors say that ERs stay quiet on Christmas Day itself. Then comes December 26 and they see a surge in cardiac related cases. A 2008 study found that daily visits to hospitals for heart failure increased by 33% during the four days after Christmas. (www.health.com)

There is much that could be said but the Christmas season is over For this year. We have 364 shopping days until next Christmas. The holiday is over but the Holy Child remains. Be mindful that the Spirit of Christ, which is the Spirit of Christmas, remains with us always.

Jamie Jenkins

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Walter is a person I will never forget. Although it has been over forty years since I saw him, I think of him a lot and especially around Christmas.

I met Walter in the small Appalachian town where I attended college. He was twelve years old and lived with his mother, aunt, and two younger siblings in a house just behind the supermarket where I worked. His home was hardly fit for human habitation. Because of its proximity to my work place I saw him often.

The family could be seen together around town and they regularly came into the grocery store where I was employed. They were dirty, shabbily dressed, and obviously very poor. I never heard his mother or aunt speak kindly to Walter or his brother and sister. Every word spoken to them was harsh and demeaning. Walter’s father was in prison.

At first when this young boy would come into the store alone he would stand at a distance and watch me work. Gradually he came closer and would occasionally engage in minimal conversation with me. He appeared to be terribly shy but I learned that he was really very insecure and suffered from a feeling of inferiority.

Over time we became friends. He shared my excitement about my soon-to-be born first child. When the baby arrived, Walter eagerly accepted an invitation to come home with me to meet Jason.

Walter would often stand and talk with me while I worked. When I took a break and offered him a Coke or a snack to share with me, he always refused. He was poor but he was proud.

Walter was not lazy. He swept the sidewalks in front of the downtown businesses, collected bottles to return for the deposit, and did a variety of odd jobs. Anything to earn a little money.

I was stocking the dairy case one day during the Christmas Season when I looked up and saw Walter at the end of the aisle. He motioned for me to come. I could see that he was excited so I started toward him but he disappeared. When I came to the front of the aisle I saw him standing at the door of the store waving me on.

As I approached the exit Walter disappeared again around the corner of the store. I walked outside and saw him standing in pouring rain. His old dirty brown coat was soaked.

There he stood in the rain dripping wet but with a seldom seen smile on his face. I asked, “What is that?” as he held up the poorest excuse of a Christmas tree- worse than any Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

“Where did you get it,” I asked. He replied, “You know that Christmas tree lot up on Main Street? They let me have it for 50 cents.” I thought to myself that they should be ashamed for charging anything for it.

He asked, “Ain’t it pretty?” I am not sure what I said but I suspect I lied.

As we stood in the rain he said, “I just didn’t think it was right that my little brother and sister didn’t have a Christmas tree.” Then just before he turned to go, he pulled some coins from his pocket and asked, “How many decorations do you think I can get for $1.82?”

As he ran away I realized that Walter’s willingness to give all he had captured the Spirit of Christmas. God loved us so much that He gave His best to be born in a cattle stall in Bethlehem. And the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace, good will to all.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

 

When asked what retirement was like I replied that every day is like Saturday. While the answer is not exactly true it does describe the change after 41 years with the same employer. Sunday is the one exception. I am grateful that every seven days worship, learning, and fellowship with fellow believers provides a wonderful reminder that there is still a rhythm to life.

I have received a paycheck from my work on a weekly or monthly basis for the past 55 years and it felt strange when there was not one this past July 1. Thankfully there was a deposit a few days later from my pension account. It was not as much as usual but enough to live on. I am thankful for this provision.

Transitioning from 41 years of active employment to having no office to go to and no scheduled responsibilities has been interesting, and for the most part, enjoyable. The not-so-fun part was going through paper and digital files from the beginning of my work in 1972. Sorting and disposing of a multitude of miscellaneous data consumed an enormous amount of time. Then I realized that someone else could probably benefit more than me from my books so I gave away most of them.

Some people say they are busier in retirement than when they were working. I have always been busy trying to do what was expected of me. These past five months have also been pretty busy but it has been “my busy.” I have not been busier than before but I have not been idle.

Since the end of June I have had plenty of public speaking opportunities (which I love). I started taking Spanish classes. I am mentoring a couple of young persons, writing a weekly blog (www.thoughtsforthursday.wordpress.com), and doing some traveling.

My wife and I enjoyed a three week 4,600 mile road trip (mostly on secondary and country roads) in northeastern US and a cruise to Turkey and Greece. A trip to Uganda and two weeks with our family in Malaysia closes out 2013. Israel, Alaska, Braves Spring Training, and a Tulip River Cruise are planned for 2014.

I have sought guidance for what God wants me to do in the next phase of my life. I did not retire with a plan but I believe if I am doing today what I am supposed to do, I will be where God wants me to be tomorrow. God has not failed me yet.

I hope I will continue to have opportunities to use my talents and experience and I will travel as long as health and money permits. Next year will find me working in a local church on a very part-time basis and promoting Imagine No Malaria in North Georgia. I am not sure what all the future holds but “my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)

Jamie Jenkins

My name is Jamie. Not James, Not Jimmy. Not Janie, although I frequently receive mail address to Ms. Janie. That is a sure clue that this is not personal correspondence.

I began work with a grocery company while I was in high school and worked my way into management. The culture of the company emphasized customer service and stressed the important of knowing and calling your customers by name. I have learned over the years of serving people that is an important principle. 

Recently I visited the AT&T store near my home and was assisted by a very helpful young salesperson. From his name tag I saw that his name was Jose so I introduced myself as Jaime, the Hispanic version of my name. He replied, “Well, you can call me Joe.” So much for my attempt to be culturally relevant. 

Names are important. They identify us and often tell a lot about us. Many people carry on family names while the names of others are intended to give insight into personality or even politics. I think it is wonderful that my grandson’s first name is Jamie. It is a tribute to me and a name that goes back to my father and grandfather. My granddaughter’s first name is Felicia which means “happy,” and it describes her well. Each of them has Japanese middle names that mean “sun or sky” and “beautiful” respectively. They are equally appropriate for each of them.

Names seem to run in cycles. When we named our two oldest children we had no idea that the names we gave them would turn out to be the most popular names for babies born about the same year of their birth. Nowadays if you meet someone named Jason or Jennifer you can bet they were probably born around 1971 and 1975 respectively.

Nicknames are something else. Some make sense and some do not. Sports Hall of Fame individuals like golfer Sam Snead and baseball legend Hank Aaron received nicknames that represented their distinctive athletic characteristics. Snead was nicknamed “Slammin’ Sammy” because of what many called the “perfect swing” and Aaron has become known as “Hammering Hank” because of his many home runs. It is less clear why anyone would name a child “Dink” or “Pudd’n” or “Jabo.” Although attaching “little” to a second person in the family with the same name, we have opted not to do that with our grandson. Instead, we are “big and bigger Jamie.”

I know a couple of women whose families call them “Honey.” I am not sure how that came to be but is a sweet and endearing way to be remembered. Our children’s godmother (who has been a real grandmother to them) is known as Bubba. I know that is an often used masculine nickname especially in the south but received that nickname because that was the way our youngest son pronounced Melba when he was a toddler. 

Whatever the name, it sounds sweet to the ears. In a world that can be impersonal and with all the “user names” that technology requires it is comforting to know that our “real” name still carries value and significance. God knows each of us so intimately that “the hairs of our head are numbered” and I believe God knows each one and says to us as he did to the prophet Isaiah long ago “I have called you by name; you are mine.” 

Jamie Jenkins