Archives for the month of: May, 2014

There are some basic principles to every task- and to life. It is important to practice the basics repeatedly so that they become second nature. You usually lose something when you ignore them or fail to practice them. That is true in every part of life.

One night this week a young Atlanta Braves pitcher learned the consequences when you fail at the fundamentals. One of the most routine aspects of training for pitchers is called pitcher’s fielding practice (PFP). It can mean the difference between a run or a game.

Pitchers work every day on covering first base during fielding practice. Rookie left-hander Ian Thomas got a painful reminder why.

He was late covering first base on a grounder to the right side of the infield in the seventh inning of a game against the Red Sox. The batter beat him to the base for an infield hit that helped start a two-run rally and led to an 8-6 Boston win. Failure to perform a basic function was costly.

There are a lot of basic principles that we have heard and learned in life. Fundamentals. We know them but sometimes we forget them. Even momentary lapses of memory or failure to do what we know can be problematic.

Here are just a few of the basic life principles that I have been taught.

• If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
• Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
• Look before you leap.
• Keep your eye on the ball.
• Follow through on your swing.
• Do the most undesirable task first.
• Love God. Love neighbor.
• Failure to plan is planning to fail.
• Always look before you cross the street.
• Look for the silver lining in every cloud.
• The urgent is not always the important.
• Eat well and get plenty of exercise.
• There is a danger in always playing it safe.
• If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
• Accept responsibility for your actions.
• Don’t be too quick to criticize and condemn.
• Good things come to those who wait- and sometimes that means working while you wait.
• Don’t skimp on the foundation.
• You are accountable to God for every thought, word, action, and motive.
• Be quick to forgive.
• Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand.
• Self esteem comes from knowing that you are a child of God and loved by God.
• The only real failure is not trying.
• Always be thankful.
• No one person has all the truth.
• To the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.

Although I am not as diligent as I should be at putting them into practice, I understand that I lose when I don’t.

Jamie Jenkins

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It was a political statement but it has implications far beyond politics. On Election Day last Tuesday Roy Barnes, former Georgia Governor, offered an explanation for low voter turn out. He said the reason many people don’t vote in the primary election is because of the requirement that voters must declare themselves as either Republican or Democrat.

I think he is right. Many people choose to support a candidate on the basis of his or her position on certain issues, personal and professional history, or qualifications rather than the candidate’s political party.

I am grateful for the right to vote and I am in that growing group of people who choose not to be identified by political party labels.

I was born, raised, and have lived all my life in the United States and I am proud of my country. I am a Christian and a United Methodist and I am proud of my religion and my Church. I was born into the Jenkins family and I proudly claim that heritage.

At the same time I express pride in my country, Church, and family I realize that the actions and attitudes that each of them has exhibited have not always been right.

It is all to common for folks to believe if you are not “for” me, you are “against” me. This often results in expressions of disrespect and abuse. The “I am right and you are wrong” attitude does harm to others. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable but all too often that is not the case. Instead the result of differing opinions often lead to harsh and unkind expressions that cast the other person in a very negative light.

Whether in the political, religious, social, or personal realm there is a need for civility and mutual respect. It is a good thing to have strong convictions and it is alright to express your perspective but we should not become angry, demanding, or demeaning toward others.

I believe there are some absolutes. Everything is not relative. But we need to be tolerant of one another, treating everyone with dignity and respect even when there is a vast difference between our positions on issues. I am afraid that tolerance is in short supply these days. President John F. Kennedy said, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

There are things in our society that cause me to be concerned. I am discouraged and at times frightened about the future of the world. Nevertheless I am mindful that I need to give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself. And trust the outcome to God.

Jamie Jenkins

The sinking of the Korean ferry Sewol on April 16 might have been prevented if one simple thing had occurred- good communication regarding cargo weight limit. Reports show that the ferry exceeded its cargo limit on nearly every voyage in the 13 months before it sank.

One entity recorded the weights. Another set the weight limit. Neither knew what the other was doing. This and other factors failed passengers April 16 when the ferry sank leaving more than 300 people missing or dead.

The Korean Register of Shipping examined the Sewol early last year and reduced the ship’s cargo capacity by more than half and said the vessel needed to carry more than 2,000 tons of water to stay balanced. But the register gave its report only to the ship owner. Neither the coast guard nor the Korean Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships, appear to have had any knowledge of the new limit before the disaster.

This is a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing, and with catastrophic results. Most of the time poor communication does not have such serious consequences but it can and does damage human relationships. Someone said that “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” On the other hand if you are not willing to work at it, disaster is sure to occur.

To put it plainly, communication is a balance of talking, listening, and understanding. It is important to say things clearly, pay attention to what others are saying (or not saying), and make sure that there is common understanding of the interchange. In good communication we say clearly what we mean and we really mean what we say. It is not fair, nor safe, to assume that others “know what we mean” when we speak. Don’t use “code words” and expect others to interpret them accurately. Bill Clinton said, “No wonder people don’t trust politicians. Every few years they hear promises that are never intended to be kept.” Politicians are not the only ones. Sometimes we say what we think people want to hear but don’t really mean them.

You have heard that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. That is important to understand but it is equally important to know that we all have filters through which we hear what others are saying. We may have to ask questions or restate what we have heard in order to be sure we understand what the speaker intended. Christopher Morley suggests that, “There is only one rule for being a good talker – learn to listen.”

According to Emma Thompson, “Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn’t listening.” That is true not only in a family but in all human relations whether it is between individuals or, corporate entities, or nations. Sometimes the problem is that we just don’t think about who will be effected by our words or actions and so we “miss a step” and our communication is deficient.

On one occasion I contacted an employee of a colleague to inquire if that person would be interested in coming to work with me. She was and I hired her. A few days later her current employer called to suggest that it would have been nice if I had talked with him before offering his employee a job. He was right! I should have extended the courtesy of at least letting my friend know of my interest and asking permission to talk with his employee. I apologized and fortunately he was gracious and kind to me.

Good communication requires patience and the willingness to work at it. There are many tips to good communication. Let me offer just three that are not original with me but I cannot identify the source:

1. Remember that the goal of effective communication skills should be mutual understanding and finding a solution that pleases both parties, not ‘winning’ the argument or ‘being right’.

2. This does not work in every situation, but sometimes (if you’re having a conflict in a romantic relationship) it helps to hold hands or stay physically connected as you talk. This can remind you that you still care about each other and generally support one another.

3. Keep in mind that it’s important to remain respectful of the other person, even if you don’t like their actions.

I hope my thoughts have been expressed clearly. One common mistake is to assume that good communication has occurred. I would be happy to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree with my perspective? What else could be said to help us communicate well? What skills have you learned and practiced that have been helpful?

Jamie Jenkins

I have been living in chaos for the past four weeks. Remodeling a house while still living there is insanity and I am the insane one. I was not (too) crazy before this project but now I have an an excuse (reason) for my craziness

I am reasonably organized in the way I carry out my day to day life. My desk is neat. I don’t deal very well with clutter and mess. I don’t throw my clothes on the floor and leave them there. Even if I wanted to, my wife would never let me get away with it

I believe everything has a place and should be in its place. I am not compulsive. That is just the way things ought to be.

And that is the way they are around my house. Or at least the way things used to be.

Four weeks ago we began major remodeling of our 18 year old house. There was some updating needed after all these years and there were some changes that we wanted to make.

If you have ever undertaken such a project you probably realize that it has the tendency to grow. When you do one thing you realize that there is another that would be nice. There are also unexpected “extras” that occur.

I have made many trips to Home Depot and Lowes to purchase and to return what I bought that was not the right type. If they gave frequent shopper discounts I certainly would qualify. I never knew there were so many choices of faucets and light fixtures.

I have heard it said that every home project takes longer and costs more than you planned. Boy, how true that is. Sure, it would be nice to change that feature or add that item. Anything you want can be done. It’s only money.

But that is not the most trying aspect of remodeling for me. The most difficult matter is the mess. The dust. The inconvenience. The “I don’t know where it is because it is either packed up or covered in plastic.”

One morning last week we had no water in the master bathroom sinks but there was water in a downstairs bathroom. No problem. I’ll just go down there to shave. There was water in the downstairs bathroom but no mirror. Oh well, who needs a mirror to shave?

The contractor tells me that he will be finished inside by the end of this week. Sure. We were going to be unable to use our kitchen for a couple of days- it took three weeks before it was semi-functional again. Yeah, the end of the week. We will see.

If I sound a little frustrated it is because I am. I am normally a patient person but this has just about pushed me to my limit. OK, so it has pushed me past my limit. I will be so glad when we can reclaim our house.

I know it is going to be good when it is all over. The changes we are making will be nice. We are going to enjoy our “new” house.

I wonder if God feels some of the same frustration with us during the “remodeling” process of our lives? Basically everything is alright but some things needs to changed. Some changes are major and some are minor but all can be messy. And the desired results are slow to be realized.

I know that God is in the business of “making all things new.” I just wonder if our slowness to respond to his wishes and the messiness that is involved in this re-creation is enough to test His patience?

Jamie Jenkins