Archives for the month of: July, 2015

Headstones 3

Cemeteries are interesting places to visit. The headstones often give insight into the personality and character of the deceased. Some of them are humorous. For instance, the headstone on Margaret Daniel’s grave at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia has the following inscription: “She always said her feet were killing her but nobody believed her.”

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Other grave markers have religious implications. One common inscription for a Christian is “Absent from the body but present with the Lord.” Some of them express this same sentiment more creatively. For example, on a grave from the 1880’s in Nantucket, Massachusetts: “Under the sod and under the trees lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there’s only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God.”

The purpose of the grave headstone is often to praise the humble virtues of the person who has died or to remind us of the bond between the living and the dead. Many graves have markers that simply list the name of the deceased with the dates of their birth and death. The two dates are separated by a dash (-).

Headstones 7

Some say life is from B to D. From birth to death. But what is between B and D? It is a C. But what is a C? It is Choice. Our life is a matter of choices. While the two dates are significant, the in-between time is extremely important. What happens between the beginning and end of earthly life. Our choices make a difference- sometimes momentarily, sometimes eternally.

Understanding the purpose of our life is essential for a meaningful existence. Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life is the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I believe that every person is made by God and for God and until they understand that, life will never make sense.

Purpose 1

Centuries ago the leader of the Israelites counseled the people to hold God in the highest regard and serve God honestly and faithfully (Joshua 24:14). American author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. suggested that the purpose of life is “to be the eyes and ears and conscience of the Creator of the Universe”

Although ancient Joshua and the more contemporary Vonnegut lived centuries apart and their lives were very different from each other, both provide us with sound advice. I think they both would agree with the psalmist that human beings are the crown of God’s Creation with wonderful abilities and tremendous responsibilities (Psalm 8). Og Mandino put it this way: “You are not the momentary whim of a careless creator experimenting in the laboratory of life… You were made with a purpose.”

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the ultimate goal and purpose of humankind is to glorify God and to enjoy God forever. So what happens in this life- between birth and death- is extremely important. The choices we make determine our future both now and forever.

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Lord, help us today to choose wisely and live faithfully as children of God.

Jamie Jenkins

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Aretha Franklin 1

I have enjoyed listening to Aretha Franklin sing for as long as I can remember. She is a P.K. (preacher’s kid) who grew up singing gospel music in the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit where her father was the pastor. But I never expected to receive spiritual counsel from the Queen of Soul. However, last week I did.

I was driving along in my quiet, comfortable, zero emission electric car listening to a CD of Aretha’s hit songs. Although it was a love song, the lyrics gave instructions for one’s prayer life.*

I know folks who have a highly structured and disciplined routine for praying. All my Christian life I have found that to be a struggle. I pray. I pray often. But I do not have a well defined ritual that I practice.

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The Apostle Paul instructs the Thessalonians  to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). The Common English Bible translates Paul’s words to say “pray continually.” Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message, translates Paul’s words as “pray all the time.” How do you pray all the time? Continuously? After all there is work to be done. Duties to be performed. Relationships to be maintained. How is it possible to carry on all that daily life requires and always be praying?

Aretha reminded me of what I already knew. Too often we equate prayer with a certain posture and ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are times when kneeling or bowing your head when you pray is appropriate. Religious rituals can be wonderful resources for prayer. The words of others can be great tools to use in praying. Having a quiet and private place in which to meditate is invaluable. But the circumstances of daily life does not always allow for these aids to prayer.

Prayer 1

So how do we pray continually? Aretha says (sings) “Each morning I wake up. Before I put on my make up I say a little prayer for you.” She says that as she considers her wardrobe and performs the simple act of combing her hair, she says “a little prayer” for the object of her affection. On her way to work and even when she takes her coffee break, there is opportunity to pray.

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There needs to be time intentionally set aside for prayer- to offer our petitions and praise to God. It is certainly appropriate for collective prayer when people of faith gather in worship together. Equally important is the awareness that prayer can be offered at anytime and in any place. It is not difficult to pray continually because prayer is simply conversation with God and God is with us wherever we are and whatever we may be doing.

Thank you God. And thank you Aretha.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

*I Say a Little Prayer for You lyrics

The moment I wake up
Before I put on my makeup
I say a little pray for you
While combing my hair now
And wondering what dress to wear now
I say a little prayer for you

 

Forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever, we never will part
Oh, how I love you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

I run for the bus, dear
While riding I think of us, dear
I say a little prayer for you
At work I just take time
And all through my coffee break time
I say a little prayer for you

Forever and ever, you’ll stay in my heart
And I will love you
Forever and ever we never will part
Oh, how I’ll love you
Together, forever, that’s how it must be
To live without you
Would only mean heartbreak for me

 

Writers: Hal David, Burt F. Bacharach, Burt Bacharach

Copyright: BMG Gold Songs

 

There he was in the center seat with the broadcast team. Laughing, telling stories, and reminiscing. Then he was greeted with loud cheers by the sell out crowd of over 46,000 people at the All Star Game this week. I was a little surprised.

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I guess I should not have been surprised. After all, this was happening in Cincinnati where Pete Rose played and coached the Cincinnati Reds baseball team for 22 years including 3 years as non-playing manager. The Hit King is a home town hero.

Pete Rose 1

Rose is the all-time Major League leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at bats (14,053), singles (3,215), and outs (10,328). He played in 17 All Star games. And yet he remains an outcast in Major League Baseball.

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In August 1989, three years after he retired as an active player, Rose agreed to permanent ineligibility from baseball amidst accusations that he gambled on baseball games while playing for and managing the Reds, including claims that he bet on his own team. Two years later the Baseball Hall of Fame formally voted to ban him and all others on the “permanently ineligible” list from induction.

In 2004, after years of public denial, Rose admitted to betting on baseball and on, but not against, the Reds. Sports writer Tim Brown said  that he is on “his self-inflicted journey – the crimes against baseball, the cover-up, the lies, the life on a game’s periphery.”

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Rose, 74, received special permission from Rob Manfred, Commissioner of Baseball, to appear on the field at the All Star Game as one of the Franchise Four selected by the Cincinnati fans. In an interview after the game Rose said, “I’m the one who screwed up, see, so I can’t get mad at anybody why I’m not where I belong or why I did this or why I did that.” Manfred is expected to meet with Rose at some point to discuss an application for reinstatement, although a date has not been set.

Many sports fans point to the recent steroid scandals and players who got what looked like only a slap on the wrist for violation of the rules. In comparison they believe that Rose has surely paid for his misdeeds and all should be forgotten.

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The Bible suggests that we should be generous with forgiveness. I agree. On one occasion in the scripture people were ready to punish a woman severely for her transgressions. Jesus refused to condemn her and told her to “go and sin no more.”

Have the consequences of Pete Rose’s actions been sufficient? Should he be reinstated to baseball? What Would Jesus Do? I don’t know.

Jamie Jenkins

 

PRIDE 7

I am a proud man.

Depending on how you interpret the statement above I am either a very fortunate human being or an arrogant individual.

The Bible cautions that “pride comes before disaster and arrogance before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18 CEB).” One source defines pride as ” a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” This definition allows for pride to be a positive or negative emotion, depending on what prompts the feeling. It can be self-centered or other oriented.

Wikipedia describes pride as “an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.”

PRIDE 1

Merriam Webster defines prides as “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people, a feeling that you are more important or better than other people, or a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.”

According to John Maxwell, author of many books on leadership, “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.” Christian author and speaker, Joyce Meyer, says “Pride is an independent, me-oriented spirit. It makes people arrogant, rude and hard to get along with.”

In other words,  pride can be viewed as a virtue or a vice.

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Ernest Hemingway believed, “All a (person) has is pride. Sometimes you have it so much it is a sin. We have all done things for pride that we knew were impossible. We didn’t care. But a (person) must implement his pride with intelligence and care.”

With all that said, I am a proud man. It is up to you how you understand that.

PRIDE 4I am proud of my family. My wife, three adult children and their spouses, two grandchildren. I am proud of my country. I am proud to be a Christian. I am proud to be a United Methodist minister (retired).

I hope I am not “puffed up with pride”, arrogant, or obnoxious. I don’t think I am blind to imperfections. I, and all of the above mentioned of which I am proud, are not always right. I (we) are not necessarily better than any other. We are different, but not superior.

I am proud of who we are and pray that God will continue to mold and shape us until we become all that God intended for us to be.

Jamie Jenkins