Archives for the month of: July, 2014

If you grew up in the South chances are you know about “campmeeting.” If you know about it, you probably also know that it is pronounced with a silent “g.” Campmeetin’ has been for many years a tradition in the primarily rural sections of the southern United States.

Campmeetings began as a type of outdoor revival meeting on the American frontier In the 19th century. Various Protestant denominations sponsored these events and people came prepared to camp out. Farmers had a bit of a break after their crops were “laid by” and fall harvesting had not yet begun. The campmeetings provided as much for the social life of attendees as it did for their spiritual well being.

Encyclopedia Britannica describes the scene. “Families pitched their tents around a forest clearing where log benches and a rude preaching platform constituted an outdoor church that remained in almost constant session for three or four days. As many as 10,000 to 20,000 people were reported at some meetings. People came partly out of curiosity, partly out of a desire for social contact and festivity, but primarily out of their yearning for religious worship.”

Historians have generally credited James McGready (c. 1760–1817), a Presbyterian, with inaugurating the first typical camp meetings in 1799–1801 in Logan County, Kentucky. Activities included preaching, prayer meetings, hymn singing, weddings, and baptisms.

By 1820, there were almost one thousand camps in America. Although their popularity has diminished with urbanization, this tradition lives on in many places and is a very important part of the spiritual and social lives of some people.

Permanent buildings, most with electricity, air conditioning, and running water have replaced the tents from the early years of campmeetings. These new “tents,” as they still call them, are owned by families and often have been passed from one generation to another.

There are a number of campmeetings around North Georgia with a rich history that continue each summer. I am a Methodist and know more about those with Methodist heritage than others. White Oak Campground near Thomson, established in 1820 and Salem Campmeeting near Conyers was founded in 1828 and are among the oldest, thriving campgrounds in the nation. Lumpkin County Campground in Dawsonville celebrated 184 consecutive years of campmeeting last week. Lawrenceville and Shingleroof in McDonough were both established in 1832, Marietta started in 1837, and Holbrook in Alpharetta and Loudsville began in 1838. Shiloh in Carrollton/Bowdon (more precisely in the Burwell Community) held its 147th encampment earlier this summer. Since 1890 the Indian Speings Holiness Campmeeting has met for ten days each year.

When these campmeetings began all of them were in rural communities where a few miles was a great distance. The agricultural economy and modes of transportation limited opportunities for people to travel far. The environment for many of them has changed dramatically. They are now surrounded by houses and traffic but continue to gather for renewal and refreshing for several days each summer.

This week one of this area’s last campmeetings of the season is going on at Mossy Creek in White County. In 1829 gold was discovered in nearby Duke’s Creek and that same year a parcel of land was sold for $44 that eventually became Mossy Creek Campground.

From its beginnings Mossy Creek grew into an annual week long revival in mid-August and the sense of tradition and worship continues. As in the beginning, camp meeting is still a time to leave the stress of daily life and be in a community of God’s people, sharing His love.

I’ll see you at Mossy Creek tonight.

Jamie Jenkins

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I live in a safe and peaceful neighborhood. Our house is in a sub-division of 82 houses with only one entrance and two streets. I live near the rear of the sub-division. The houses across the street back up to the Chattahoochee River. So it is not uncommon for deer to stroll through our neighborhood and across our front yard and enjoy the “salad bar” of flowers.

Although our lot is small the trees, shrubs, and ivy covered fence, make the backyard rather private. Neighbors behind and beside us are fairly invisible due to this green border. My wife, a Master Gardener, has devoted many hours (and more than a few dollars) to establishing gravel paths and flower beds with a colorful variety of flowering plants and greenery. Our backyard is a place of beauty and tranquility. I am not always conscious of that but as I was sitting on the patio early one morning I realized how blessed I am.

It had rained a lot the previous few days so everything seemed to be more vibrant than usual. Birds covered the feeders and flitted about chasing one another through the trees. Several chipmunks scurried about eating the seeds that the birds dropped to the ground. A couple of squirrels were persistent in trying to get to the bird feeders. Fortunately (from my perspective) they failed so they settled for joining the chipmunks foraging on the ground. The only sound was the occasional flutter of wings and the melodious songs of the birds.

The beauty of my surroundings was overwhelming. The gift that God and my wife had provided me was incredible. I am so richly blessed and I was reminded of something I hear often and it sometimes seems trite, but not this particular morning. We are blessed to be a blessing.

As I pondered the grace of God that allows me to live in such a serene setting I became aware of another reality. The birds, chipmunks and squirrels kept a close eye on me and if I made even the slightest move or made any sound the little creatures rushed away. They were fearful because they thought I posed a danger to them. I wanted to tell them, “I am not going to hurt you,” but there was no way to communicate with them.

I wondered how many people live in an environment more like the little creatures of my backyard rather than like the man who sat on the patio. While I enjoyed beauty and peacefulness, how many others are constantly on guard to avoid harm and destruction? Earlier that morning I had read the latest news about the plane shot down in Ukraine, the violence in Israel and Gaza, the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped three months ago by terrorists, the plight of the thousands of unaccompanied and undocumented children arriving at our borders from Central America, and the death of a sixteen month old boy at the hands of his mother’s boy friend.

To say that life is not fair is a gross understatement. As I enjoyed my moment of beauty and tranquility I prayed, “Lord, let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.  As you have blessed me, help me to be a blessing to others.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

They are everywhere. You have probably seen them along the roadside or at a busy intersection as you drive around.

I am talking about the people with signs pointing you to places that serve food, rent apartments, prepare taxes, are going out of business, or will buy your gold. (I don’t know about you but I don’t think I would take my gold to one of those stores.)

Sometimes these people are dressed as animals, cartoon characters, the Statue of Liberty, and many other things. Often they are dancing and twirling their signs. Anything to get your attention.

Human billboards have been used for centuries in one form or another. In the early 1800s one common expression  was called sandwich boards. Charles Dickens described them as “a piece of human flesh between two slices of paste board.” The contemporary sign holders carry it to another level.

Sign holders are known as human directionals in the advertising industry. They are widely used especially in areas that have a lot of traffic. The signs will frequently be shaped like arrows in order to direct traffic to the location being advertised.

According to the Los Angeles Times Eye Shot, a Lake Forest, California company claims to have invented modern sign spinning using arrow-shaped signs. Another California company, AArow Advertising, conducts “boot camps” to train its employees, and has also filed patent applications for a number of its “signature moves”.

Demand for human directionals has increased significantly since the introduction of sign-twirling techniques and they appear to be highly effective. For example, The New York Times reported that during one month nearly 8% of the 3,600 people who visited model homes in a housing development in Moreno Valley, California  were directed there by human directionals.

I don’t know if this method of advertising is really cost effective. However, because of the significant increase in the number and variety of human directionals, I suspect they offer a viable alternative and give flexibility that some higher cost methods cannot.

Whatever you or I think about these sign holders/twirlers, there is a principle that the Church might take note of. If a human being pointing the way increases business traffic, the same might be true for leading people to faith.

Before you write me off as some “crazy person” (although there are probably other reasons why you should), I am not suggesting that Christians- or people of any faith for that matter- should dress up in outrageous costumes or engage in ridiculous dances on the street corner. What I am proposing is what I think Jesus offered when he said, “Let your light shine so that others might see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

The Church does not do “good works” to “show off.” Rather it is the result of following the One who “came not to be served but to serve.” I think the Church needs to do a better job of telling its stories- not so they will receive praise but to point others to the One who gave his life in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

Jamie Jenkins

 

We live in a world where we are aware of events that happen in distant places almost immediately. Technological advances allow us to witness the tragedies and triumphs of people across the globe in real time.

Tornados in the Midwest. Tsunamis in Japan. 276 Nigerian girls kidnapped from their school by a militant Islamic group. Four teenagers brutally murdered and the violent responses in Israel. The death of a 22 month old child left in a hot car in Atlanta.

We are bombarded daily by tales of horror and inhumanity. So much bad news.

But there are times when the world is brought together by different and more pleasant events. The past three weeks have afforded such an opportunity as the excitement of the 2014 World Cup has been shared by people all over the world.

The 20th FIFA World Cup began June 12 and will culminate with the final match on July 13. National teams from 32 countries have competed after being selected through qualifying rounds that began three years ago.

Almost four million spectators have filled the 12 stadiums across Brazil for the 62 matches that have been completed. Billions of people have watched this sports spectacle in countries across the globe.

The finals are scheduled for this weekend with Netherlands and Brazil in the consolation round on Saturday while Germany and Argentina will meet in the championship match on Sunday.

I watched with pride as the team from the United States represented the country well with their level of play. As a result of his outstanding performances, USA goalie Tim Howard, earned high praise and respect. He set a World Cup record with sixteen saves. Quite an accomplishment for someone diagnosed with Tourette syndrome when he was in sixth grade. His mother said she was afraid people would not be able to get past his physical and vocal tics.

Among other surprises of the tournament was the early departure of soccer (football to most of the world) powerhouses England and Spain. Then two days ago Brazil was beaten by Germany 7-1. It is not surprising that Brazil would have a hard time against Germany after losing their star player, Neymar, to an injury in the previous match, and their captain because of too many yellow cards (penalties) in previous matches. But no one anticipated such an humbling defeat.

During these past three weeks I have celebrated and agonized with people I never met. I have rejoiced at their victories and sympathized with them in their defeats. I hope for more opportunities- athletic events, humanitarian efforts, social gatherings, spiritual and religious experiences- to help us recognize that we are more alike than different.

Jamie Jenkins

I opened my mail one day last week and discovered that lady luck had smiled on me. The letter congratulated me on holding the lucky number for the USA Lottery Sweepstakes and informed me that I had won $250,000. WOW!

There was also a check for $3,974.46 in the envelope. That amount would more than pay for the “insurance, handling and shipping fees” for my winning check of $250,000. All I had to do was call my claims agent, give him the PIN # assigned to me and he would instruct me on what I needed to do to receive my quarter of a million dollars.

It seemed too good to be true. And it was.

The enclosed check looked authentic. It was drawn on the account of a very reputable and recognized international company. But it was a fake. This scam has been around so long that you would think nobody would fall for it.

If I had called my “claims agent” I would have been instructed to deposit the check I received into  my bank account. Then I was to send $3900 to cover the expenses related to delivery of my winnings. The catch is that by time I learn that the check I deposited into my bank account is bogus, the money I sent is gone. I would have been out almost $4000.

This is one incident that proves the truth of the old saying: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

I receive a lot of email offers for discounted merchandise and services. Some of them have presented real money saving offers. Recently one of the companies had iPads at a ridiculously low price. When I passed it on to my son he cautioned me to never buy anything from this company. Minimal research revealed that there were many, many complaints that what was offered was not a good deal. Once again: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It doesn’t take too many experiences like the ones described above to make a person very cynical. It is easy to become suspicious of everything that looks good.

Tomorrow is July 4th. It is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain. The day will be marked by patriotic displays of all kinds. Decorations of red, white, and blue will be everywhere.

Amidst the pomp and circumstance of Fourth of July celebrations it is easy to forget the significance of the day. The celebration of our independence affirms some very basic and essential rights for the American people.

Since Abraham Lincoln made it the centerpiece of his famous Gettysburg Address, the Declaration of Independence has become the ultimate statement of human rights. It asserts the belief that “all men are created equal”  and  that they are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Among these are  “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It has been said that this passage represents “a moral standard to which the United States should strive.”

I am glad that the standard is set and I believe we are making progress toward the ultimate goal of equality for all people. If that goal seems too good to be true, look again.

Multitudes across the globe suffer under oppressive governments without even the most basic human rights. Military coups and sectarian violence are the order of the day in many parts of the world. We do not live in a perfect society in the United States but the freedoms we enjoy- and often take for granted- are the dreams of millions. From their perspective this “one nation under God with liberty and justice for all” seems too good to be true. But thank God it is not a fantasy. Freedom is a priceless gift that must be cherished. Let us be thankful and live responsibly.

Jamie Jenkins