Archives for the month of: June, 2014

IMG_2210

It’s not ‘my side of the road’ or “your side of the road.’ It’s just ‘the road’ and it’s shared as a cooperative adventure.” That is how travel guru Rick Steves describes driving on the narrow rural roads in Ireland.

After returning last weekend from my first visit to the Emerald Isle I have a first-hand understanding of what Steves meant. My wife and I arrived in Dublin, rented a car, and drove over 1500 kilometers (900-1000 miles) in eight days. We took the motorway (like our interstate highways) for the first leg of the journey (Dublin to Galway) and the last short day’s drive from Kilkenny back to Dublin. But the rest of the trip was on smaller roads.

Throughout our time on the roads we would regularly see a sign that indicated very curvy roads ahead. Occasionally there would be a sign that warned that there were sharp or dangerous “bends” ahead. I thought it would make more sense to simply post a sign once in a while that informed you that there were 100 yards of straight road ahead.

I am accustomed to driving on very curvy roads in the mountains of North Georgia and North Carolina. The difference in Ireland is that you are driving on the left side of the road and the speed limit is 100-120 kilometers (60-75 MPH) on those hair pin curves and most of the time the roads have no shoulders. The yellow line on the edge of the road runs constantly along a huge rock wall or an overpowering hedge row. If the person coming at you crosses the center line- if there is one- you have nowhere to go.

We enjoyed staying overnight in Bed and Breakfast facilities which were wonderful. Not only did the local folks who owned the B&Bs extended exceptional hospitality, they also provided very helpful advice on things to see and do that were not always on the itinerary of most tourists.

Having a car gave us flexibility to follow some of their suggestions and get out into the country away from the touristy areas. Once we left the “main” roads” described above and got onto the small(er) rural roads we found that Rick Steves advice about “the road” was exactly right.

When two cars met on one of those country roads, one driver would find a place to pull over enough for the other to pass and barely scrape the vegetation alongside the road. Everyone was courteous. Not once did either driver stand their ground and make the other give way.

What a different world it would be if that attitude was adopted by everyone in every situation. It’s not “my side of the road” or “your side of the road.” Life is “the road” and we share it in cooperative adventure.

Jamie Jenkins

Image

Advertisements

There are no Thoughts for Thursday this week because I am on vacation.  I will have some thoughts to share with you next week after I return. 

I have just returned from a huge family reunion. I joined more than 2000 people  for three days. Those of us who had not seen each other for quite a while embraced and shared some of the things that had been happening in our lives. We laughed a lot. We cried a bit. We rejoiced and remembered.

There was a special focus on children, youth, and young adults at this year’s family gathering. Those of us who are older (or should I say more mature?) recognize the need to intentionally reach out to those who are coming after us. It is imperative that we acknowledge  their needs and understand their strengths if our family and all of humanity is going to be healthy.

There was a celebration of new members being added to the family and we acknowledged the loss of some of our dear loved ones.

During the long days together we sang, prayed, heard reports of how our family had made significant contributions to the health and welfare of our fellow human beings all over the globe. Our family is an industrious group of people who are not satisfied with just taking care of ourselves. We believe it is our responsibility to care for others as much as we care for ourselves.

We shared plans of what we would do in the coming year and we agreed to provide the needed finances for those efforts. Feeding the hungry. Housing the homeless. Befriending the lonely. Eliminating death and suffering from malaria. Providing opportunities for quality education. Efforts to offer wholesome activities and experiences for all ages. These and many more causes consumed much of our time and conversations.

While we were together we contributed money to several very worthwhile causes to address human pain and suffering. We also made commitments to other much needed efforts on behalf of our fellow human beings.

There were moments when we acknowledged our failures and mistakes.

As in all healthy families, there were different opinions on some issues. Some folks exercised their rights and expressed their feeling with much passion. In the end we agreed on some matters but left with varying opinions on others. I am sure those discussions will continue and we will probably re-visit some of them when we get together next June.

Much of the agenda for this family gathering dealt with important temporal matters. But our family understands that we are not only physical beings, we are also spiritual beings. So there were times of singing, praying, reflection, and proclamation.

This family reunion was the 148th annual gathering of United Methodists in the northern half of the state of Georgia. Representatives of about 950 churches came together in Athens to conduct business on behalf of the 365,000 people who are members of those churches.  It was a great time.

I thank God for my United Methodist brothers and sisters and I was glad to be among them during this past week. We gathered together but now we have scattered back to our home communities to carry on the work of Christ through the Church. I pray that we will be faithful in sharing the love and grace of God with all whom we meet.

Jamie Jenkins

Experience is the best teacher so I have been told. I think that is probably correct but there is an old proverb that adds an appropriate and accurate caveat: “but the tuition is high.”

Experience is not always the kindest of teachers, but it can be argued that it is surely the best. Archibald MacLeish suggests that the “only one thing more painful than learning from experience is not learning from experience.”

Experience is the only source of knowledge according to Albert Einstein. That includes the pleasant as well as the uncomfortable moments of life. There is something to learn from every effort or decision. Sometimes we get it “right” and sometimes we don’t but every occasion provides opportunity to learn.

When we “succeed” there is always something to learn about why that effort went well or what led to the good decision. Reflection on times that we accomplish what we intended or met the goal that we set can be beneficial for the future.

Many people conclude that we learn more from our failures than our successes. That could be because we seem to fail more than excel. Whatever the reason it is important to learn from our mistakes.

There is real value in making mistakes because you can learn a better way that leads to success. That is not to say we should be given a license to make mistakes. But the freedom to try your best and be OK when you make mistakes is a wonderful way to learn- if you understand that committing mistakes is alright, repeating them is not.

Whether we learn from our mistakes or not is largely determined by our attitude. If we refuse to acknowledge errors in judgment or inaccurate assessments, we are destined to repeat them.

The “if only” complex will also prevent you from learning and moving on. If only I had done this. If only I had not done that. If you hold onto the painful experience and beat yourself up by repeatedly looking backwards at the mistake, you will never overcome the sense of failure and regret. “If only” holds on to the past and therefore cannot move into the future. Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.

A very different approach is the “next time” attitude. Don’t ignore or deny the mistake. Instead reflect on what was done wrong or what was not done and ask what could be a better way next time. This will most likely prevent you from making that same mistake again, or often. Soren Kierkegaard said that “life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”.

The Apostle Paul learned from his mistakes but was not bound by them. He realized that he was not perfect and he understood the need to “forget about the things behind and reach out for the things ahead.” He knew that God would help him to overcome the past mistakes and would provide opportunities for new beginnings. Consequently he pressed on to reach the goal that God had for him.

Life provides ongoing opportunities to learn and grow. Our experiences can teach us a better way so that we can become the persons God created us to be.

Jamie Jenkins