Archives for the month of: January, 2014

Pope Francis has blessed the internet. He didn’t sprinkle holy water on it or anything like that but he said it is a “gift from God.”

At the same time he extolled the value of the internet the Pope also called attention to some of the negative implications. While it facilitates communication, he warns that the obsessive desire to stay connected can actually isolate people from their friends and family.

Huffington Post noted that the comment came as the Pope discussed “the marvels and perils of the digital era and what that means for the faithful going out into the world and interacting with people of different faiths and backgrounds.” He acknowledges that the digital age offers “immense possibilities” for dialogue without “renouncing our own ideas and traditions.”

Although I don’t understand how the internet works or who “owns” it, I am grateful for it. It is wonderful to be able to communicate with family and friends across vast distances and different time zones. The ability to actually see my grandchildren (and their parents) and have conversations with them in real time is an amazing gift to me.

Much of my work and personal communications can be conducted on the internet. Emails, text messages, video conferences, and social media allow instant contact and interaction. It is convenient and cost-effective.

It is easy to cite many examples supporting the Pope’s comments about the merits and the peril of the internet. While it provides a wonderful tool for communication and commerce, there are many who use it for illegal and immoral purposes.

The potential for good and bad is present in almost everything, maybe all things. There is a flip side that often diverts attention from that which is basically beneficial to humankind.

The blessing of religion is often overshadowed by the curse of people who pervert it and use it as tool of repression and privilege. The examples are far too numerous of the distortion of basic tenets of the faith of millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and others.

God created everything for our good but many accumulate wealth only to enhance their own lifestyle with no concern for others. No thought seems to be given to being responsible stewards with the ability to alleviate poverty and pain in others. What is intended to benefit all is selfishly hoarded. They forget that we are blessed to be a blessing.

It is so easy to misuse something meant for good. Whether it is food and drink, entertainment, sexuality, opportunity, talents, or personal possessions- all things can be a blessing or a curse. It depends on how we use them.

The internet is just one example of something that has potential for much good. With this technology and all other gifts from God, we must be diligent to use them for good.

Jamie Jenkins

When my phone rang the other day caller ID indicated the person on the other end of the line was Anonymous. Since I do not know anyone by that name the call went unanswered.

There are many reasons why one might prefer to be anonymous. Occasionally a news story will quote someone without identifying the source with reference to “a person close to the situation but not authorized” to speak on the matter. People will sometimes choose to conceal their identity when they expect unpleasant consequences because of their words or deeds.

Big trades in professional sports will often feature a well recognized “star” and “an unnamed player” in the deal. I suspect that the athlete who is not a household name would prefer to be identified rather than just viewed as a relatively unimportant commodity in the transaction. It is one thing if a person desires to keep a low profile but it could be humiliating to be faceless or unknown in some situations. Every individual is worthy of being named and not to be devalued and relegated to obscurity.

However, being anonymous should not always be viewed negatively. Anonymity might be desired because a person is embarrassed or feels others will “look down” on them because of some behavior or circumstance. It is easy to understand why organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous choose to keep their membership private.

There are other reasons when remaining anonymous is a good thing. When Kyle Carr was 7 years old he told his mother that one day he was going to the Olympics. In 2006, he broke his ankle right before the Olympic trials. In 2010, he missed the team by 1/100 of a second. Then twenty years later his dream was realized when he qualified as a speed skater on the U.S. Olympic Team in Sochi.

Since Kyle just qualified two weeks ago, his family started scrambling to try to get his mother to the Olympics which begin February 7. The time was short, visa and travel restrictions, and the cost involved made it seem unlikely, if not impossible. One of the Atlanta television stations helped to publicize the effort to raise funds so this young athlete’s mother could get to Russia and see her son skate in the Olympics.

One week ago the fund topped $6,000 but about $10,000 was needed. Then an Atlanta businessman who wanted to be anonymous stepped forward to say he would pay the difference. Kyle’s mom is going to Sochi.

There are times when being anonymous is a good thing.
When we do good to others, there is no need to call attention to it. We don’t need to “hire a trumpeter to go in front of us” to make sure that people admire us. We are told that the reward is much greater when our charity is done in secret (Matthew 6:2-4).

There are times when being anonymous is a good thing. By the way, does anyone know the name of The Good Samaritan?

Jamie Jenkins

I believe in miracles.

The other day I realized that a miracle had occurred in Atlanta. Multitudes of people know about it but probably would not describe it as such.

One definition of a miracle is an event that human power and ingenuity could not make happen. Therefore it can only be attributed to a supernatural or divine being. If this is the only way to define miracle, then I would identify this happening as something else.

The primary definition of miracle in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is an event caused by the power of God. But it offers a secondary definition that is valid: a very amazing or unusual event, thing, or achievement. While I do not disagree with the primary definition, it is this secondary understanding with which I conclude that a miracle of major proportions has occurred.

This beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature is related to a very heavily traveled section of highway in metro Atlanta.

The southernmost leg of Georgia Highway 400 opened in 1993 as a toll road connecting Interstate 85 just north of downtown Atlanta with I-285 on the north side of the city. The toll was to expire in 2011 but the governor and the state toll road authority decided to extend the toll past the original deadline.

Then the miracle occurred. At 11:08 AM on Friday, November 22, 2013 the last toll was collected from the same couple that paid the first toll twenty years earlier. You ask, how does that qualify as a miracle? Once a tax has been enacted have you ever known it to be removed? That is why I call this a miracle. While it is not contrary to the laws of nature, it certainly is statistically an unlikely event.

C. S. Lewis said, “God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures. He commands us to do slowly and blunderingly what He could do perfectly and in the twinkling of an eye.” In this instance I believe God could have wiped out that toll and struck down those toll booths at anytime during that 20 year period. The fact that abolishing the payment to travel this highway was not the result of supernatural intervention does not make it less of a miracle.

A very smart and wise man (Albert Einstein) once said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” There are so many things that we accept as commonplace that are really miracles. The smile of a baby is admired but we accept it as something to be expected. We have viewed so many sunsets that we fail to see the splendor and majesty of them. When we lose the sense of awe and wonder, we lose our enthusiasm for life. It takes a miracle to help us live the way we were intended to live.

Turkish playwright and novelist Mehmet Murat Ildan says, “Life is a miracle; walking is a miracle; watching the sunset is a miracle; everything is a miracle, because existence is a miracle!”

We drive the streets and roads along with millions of others and arrive safely at our destinations. That is a miracle. Our families and friends love us in spite of our idiosyncrasies. That is a miracle. Our Creator, who knows us best, loves us most. That is a miracle.

I believe in miracles.

Jamie Jenkins

DSCN1514Maybe you have heard it said, “You can’t get there from here.” It is one way to describe how difficult it can be to travel from one place to another. Whether you have tried to get across town during Atlanta’s horrible rush hour or you are going to the other side of the globe you probably understand.

The old saying certainly captured my feeling last month when I traveled to Malaysia. After four flights and about 10,000 miles my family arrived in Georgetown, the capital of the island state of Penang. The city of 1.5 million people is linked to mainland Malaysia by two bridges. The 8.4 mile Penang Bridge was opened in September 1985 providing an alternative to the ferry which had been the only way to get to the island. A second bridge, 15 miles long, has just been completed, making it the longest bridge in Malaysia and in Southeast Asia.

For more than a hundred years Penang was a British colony and provided an important port for the spice trade and other commerce. The island gained independence in 1957, and subsequently became a member state of Malaysia in 1963. In 2008, Georgetown, the historic capital of Penang, was formally recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is officially recognized as having “a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.”

The drive from the Penang International Airport into the city of Georgetown carries you through the Silicon Valley of Malaysia where many of the world’s leading high tech industries are located. Highly urbanized and industrialized Penang, often called “the Pearl of the Orient,” is one of the most developed and economically important states in Malaysia. The beautiful beaches and the multitudes of luxury high rise apartments/condos make it a very popular and affordable destination for tourists.

DSCN1678Penang has been called the Food Capitol of Malaysia. One travel writer said it is “every hungry traveler’s dream destination.” Lonely Planet says it is “one of the world’s greatest hawker capitals; the best food isn’t found in restaurants but at literally thousands of food stalls that usually serve one signature dish – often a recipe passed down through generations.” The traveler’s guide goes on to say that to visit Penang and miss the hawker food stalls is like going to Paris and missing the Louvre.

Penang’s Assam Laksa, a sour fish-based soup, was ranked 7th in CNN’s World’s Most Delicious Foods. Whether eating at the 5 Star Eastern and Oriental Hotel restaurant or at Nasi Kandar Pelesi hawker stall, I enjoyed the culinary experience and the food was very cheap.

Penang’s population is highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language, and religion. 55% of the population are Chinese, 35% are Malay, and 10% other ethnicity. 45% are Muslim, 35% Buddhist, 9% Hindu, 5% Christian, 6% Chinese traditional and other religions. There seems to be a high degree of religious harmony and tolerance with an abundance of houses of worship for all of these religions and often they are side-by-side. The people that we encountered everywhere were exceptionally kind and helpful.

DSCN1337The Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Kek Lok Si Temple, St. George Anglican Church, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Khoo Kongsi Clan House, Eastern & Orient Hotel, Fort Cornwallis, and the variety of architectural types of houses, street art in the historic district, and Gurney Drive make Georgetown an architectural wonderland. Add places like the Tropical Spice Garden, Butterfly Farm, Penang National Park and Monkey Beach on the northeastern side of the island, the hilly southwestern region of Balik Pulau with its clove and nutmeg plantations and fruit orchards, and Penang is a wonderful destination worth the long travel from the U.S.

The visit to Malaysia was just another reminder that “the earth is the LORD’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

Jamie Jenkins

Time marches on and it marches to its own beat. Night follows day. Weeks, months and years continue without any effort on our part. The calendar knows no master. 

We may manipulate the clock to give us more daylight hours several months of the year but we  cannot manufacture time. It cannot be created but it can be used or wasted. 
The world is divided into time zones and that always confuses me. I know the simple scientific  explanation but I still have trouble comprehending it. I have just returned today from a trip that included a total of nine flights that consumed almost all of four days. On our way back home the last day’s travel began with a 6:00 AM flight and we traveled for a total of 22 hours but we arrived in Atlanta at 4:30 PM the same day (thus the reason why this post is a bit later than usual). 
It has been said that time flies when you are having fun. Of course, there are sixty seconds in every minute and sixty minutes in every hour whether you are enjoying them or not. But the level of our pleasure in the moment causes time to appear to either speed up or stand still. 
It does seem that times passes more quickly as you get older but a year is 365 days long (or 366 days every fourth year) no matter what your age. It feels like 2013 just started but a couple of days ago we marked the beginning of 2014. Where does the time go?
A heartbreaking news story this week told of a young woman in metro Atlanta who lost her life in an automobile accident just hours after her wedding. We have no way of knowing what the next day will bring. I am increasingly aware that each day is a gift and it should be used wisely.
Time is a treasure. No one knows how much of it remains for them in this earthly life so every minute of every day is valuable. I have heard the question asked, “If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?” That is a provocative question but it is equally important to consider what we would do if we knew we would live tomorrow.
Whether our life span is a few or many years, in the grand scheme of things our journey through this earth is brief. The psalmist offers a prayer that is appropriate for anyone: “Teach us Lord to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
Counting the days or years is not enough. We need to make every effort to make them count.
Jamie Jenkins