Archives for the month of: October, 2015

I received an email with the subject: “First and Final Notice.” It seemed both ominous and inconsiderate. Why would you notify me of something only one time? If I needed to take some action, should I not be allowed more than one chance? At least you would think I could have the opportunity to discuss the matter if I disagreed with the sending party.

Last chance 1

I thought, “Hey, cut me some slack.” If I need to do something, I will do it but don’t slam the door on me if additional communication would be helpful.

“First and Final Notice” is woefully lacking in “grace” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving.” Kindness. Common courtesy.

Philosophically and theologically speaking, grace is getting what you don’t deserve. It is unlike justice (getting what you deserve) which we often expect for others or mercy (not getting what you deserve) which seems to be the “right” thing for us. Maybe I should not have expected leniency (grace) but the ultimatum seemed like harsh justice.

Grace 1

Maybe I am just like the child whose parent is constantly saying, “I am not going to tell you again.” After hearing that false promise so many times, I begin to expect to be given another chance. No second chance seems so unreasonable. Unfair.

Last chance 2

I understand that sometimes an ultimatum is necessary. However, an ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. Quite the opposite of “first and final notice.”

I wonder how often I communicate “first and final” by my attitude. Unbending. Absolute. No other options. Not open to discussion. I hope my demeanor is very much in contrast to that closed-minded and harsh approach.

I am not suggesting that anything goes. I do not believe that everything is negotiable. There are principles upon which my life is based. There are some absolutes. There are some things that are “right” and “wrong” but I have learned that things are not “black or white” as often as I once thought they were.

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Although there are instances when we need to stand our ground, the world would be a better place if “grace” were offered more often. I think that is how God relates to us. We are accountable for our attitudes and actions but God offers forgiveness and reconciliation generously. We would do well to do likewise.

Jamie Jenkins

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I don’t always pay attention to commercials on the radio and television but one caught my attention recently. It was not because of any bargains that were offered or any catchy slogan or tune. Neither was it due to a new product that was being offered. Actually nothing was mentioned about any merchandise for sale.

The announcement was that this giant retailer had donated $4 million to more than 80 Habitat for Humanity affiliates. This donation will build 40 houses and increase support for more than 60 affiliates. A fully stocked pantry would also be provided to each house that will be built by employees of the company providing these funds.

This generous contribution came from Publix Super Markets Charities, a not-for-profit organization that has $400 million worth of assets under management. The organization was founded as the George W. Jenkins Foundation in 1966 to improve the communities served by the supermarket chain. After Jenkins’ death, the foundation’s name became Publix Super Markets Charities.

George W. Jenkins

George Washington Jenkins Jr. was born Sept. 29, 1907, in Warm Springs, Ga. He was one of eight children of a general store owner. He was 12 when he started working in his father’s store. When he was 16, the boll weevil destroyed the area’s cotton crops and caused economic disaster for the general store.

Jenkins moved to Atlanta with his family and began working at a series of odd jobs including a job working for the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain. After his move to Florida the store where he was employed did not do well and eventually was sold. When that happened  he said, “I turned in my apron, took the money I had saved to buy a new car — about $1,300 — and in 1930 opened my own store next to the one I’d left.”

Publix 4

That same year Jenkins formed a corporation, Publix Food Stores Inc., and today the private corporation which is wholly owned by present and past employees is ranked No. 81 on Fortune magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For 2015 and was ranked No. 8 on Forbes 2014 list of America’s Largest Private Companies. The company’s 2014 sales totaled $30.6 billion, with profits of $1.74 billion. Based on 2014 revenue, Publix is the thirteenth largest U.S. retailer and thirty-fifth in the world.

Publix 2

The phenomenal success of the supermarket chain is very impressive and their commitment to customer service is a basic tenet of the company. But what caught my attention in the radio commercial was the closing comment attributed to its founder George W. Jenkins.

Jenkins was once asked, “If you hadn’t given away so much, how much do you think you would be worth today?” Without hesitation, he replied, “Probably nothing.”

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I don’t know if that would have been the case but I do believe that all we really have is what we give away.

Jamie  Jenkins

Ted French shared my love for ice cream and he introduced me to a new flavor, Sugar Free Chocolate Caramel Pecan. On a Tuesday night. I try to discipline myself to eat sweets only on weekends but he said since it was sugar free it would be alright. I accepted his rationale and indulged. Yummy!

I was eating lunch with friends the last time I saw Ted. He rolled up beside me in his motorized chair and handed me a bowl of that delicious ice cream. This particular brand was not sold in retail outlets so the only place I knew to get it was at the restaurant where I first ate it with Ted.

I often longed for that frozen treat. Then I learned that it was made at a creamery I passed regularly. One day the desire to have some Sugar Free Chocolate Caramel Pecan ice cream was too much. So I stopped by the nondescript building that houses the creamery. I inquired if they sold to the public and was told that they did.

“I would like some of the Sugar Free Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor,” I said. When I was told it came in only one size I said, “That’s fine. I’ll take it.” In a couple of minutes a man arrived from the freezer with a 3-gallon container of ice cream. I thought to myself, “Wow!,” as I took the giant container from him and headed to my car.

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There was no one at home (thankfully) when I arrived so I began to rearrange everything in our freezer to make room for this huge carton of ice cream. Needless to say, making room for it was not easy. When my wife came home and opened the freezer she was surprised at what she saw (duh!). But it was OK (?) since she understood how much I like ice cream.

Three gallons of ice cream is a lot! Especially when you eat it only on weekends. Under an ultimatum that it had to be gone before Thanksgiving, we finished it last weekend. And I was glad to see it go. I still like ice cream and I will want some more Sugar Free Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor in the future but I will enjoy other flavors for a while.

I suspect that you have heard the expression “too much of a good thing.” Well, my ice cream experience described above was certainly that. It was a reminder to me that just about anything in excess is not good. There are so many options available that it is difficult to choose and since we cannot decide, often we try it all. Food, entertainment, leisure, you name it and there is more than can reasonably be accommodated.

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A menu at a restaurant can be overwhelming. Appetizers, salad and soups, entrees, desserts- and they all sound wonderful. Purchasing an automobile is a daunting experience because there so many makes, models, trim types, colors, accessories. Want a night of entertainment? There seems to be almost unlimited possibilities: movies, performance theaters, action games, sports… the list goes on.  Decide to stay at home and watch television and you can choose from hundreds of channels after you decide between cable, satellite, or one of the many online streaming offerings. How can one not over indulge?

We are captives to the enormous amount of possibilities so we tend to do, eat, watch, and engage more than what is necessary, usual, or specified. I accept the reality that I am inclined to over indulge and I constantly seek to practice moderation- restraint, avoidance of extremes or excesses.excess 9

Philosophy and all major religions emphasize moderation as a key to wholesome living. To avoid excess in actions, desires and even thoughts leads to a healthier lifestyle.

The Book of Sirach is a book of ethical teachings from approximately 200-175 BC. It appears in the Old testament of the Catholic Bible but except for some Episcopal and Lutheran Bibles it and the other 12-15 books of the Apocrypha do not appear in Protestant Bibles. Some Protestant churches include it in their lectionaries and as a book proper for reading, devotion, and prayer. Its influence in early Christianity is evident. Concerning moderation Sirach says, “My child, test yourself while you live; see what is bad for you and do not give into it” (Sirach 37:27).

Words of another very wise man of long ago also recommends restraint in the advice: “Moderation is better than muscle, self-control better than political power” (Proverbs 16:32, The Message).

I know it in my head but it needs to move into my heart and hands. I want to enjoy the good that God provides but I know that too much of a good thing can be bad.

Jamie Jenkins

Atlanta Braves 1

It is finally over. A long and disappointing year for Atlanta Braves fans and  players ended last Sunday. It has been twenty-four years since they experienced a losing season- and this was a LOSING season.

At least it ended on an upbeat note. The Braves won four of the last five series with a 10-5 record after losing eight of the previous nine. Although they lost 95 games (out of 162) this year, it felt good to end the season winning all three games against St. Louis even if the Cardinals lineup was mostly backup players since they had clinched their division several days earlier.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

In the next to the last game of the season pitcher Shelby Miller finally won a game after 24 consecutive starts without a win. His record setting winless streak is not a reflection of his ability. The Braves have just not scored any runs to support him.

If you follow Major League Baseball, you know that this has been a “rebuilding” year for the Braves. The front office systematically dismantled last year’s team. At the end of the 2015 season last Sunday there were only 5 players on the team that were on last year’s 25-man roster: two pitchers, two infielders, and one catcher who spent much of this season in the minor league.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Jason Heyward, who was traded to St. Louis after last season, returned to Atlanta for the first time last week. He was glad to return to his home territory (he grew up in suburban McDonough) and the team he played with for his first five years in the major leagues, but it was not what you would normally think. He said it didn’t feel “homecomingish” since he didn’t know most of the Braves players. The local fans have felt that way all year long.

Braves fans mourn the sad state of the team and miss players who grew up around Atlanta like Heyward and Alex Wood (who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers), the best closing pitcher in baseball, Craig Kimbrel, and a long list of others from the 2014 team. But things worked out pretty well for about a dozen of them as they are now playing for teams that have advanced into the post-season play-offs while the Braves go home and wait until spring training next year.

I know that in the grand scheme of things winning or losing baseball games doesn’t rank very high. However, this season for Braves fans and players illustrate a very important life principle. All things will not be as you wished they were. You win some and you lose some. There are victories and defeats. Mountain tops and valleys. But life is not about “winning” or “losing.”  It is our response to these disparate experiences that determines success or failure.

Lynn Anderson

Country singer Lynn Anderson reminded us that “along with the sunshine there’s got to be a little rain sometime.” Another popular song written by Benjamin Weisman, Fred Karger, and Sid Wayne offers the following advice and encouragement:

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

Losing is not the end of the world. Whether it is a baseball game, a relationship, a job, a dream, our health, or anything else. We can “walk on with hope in our heart” because we do not walk alone. God has promised to be with us always to love, support, and guide us.

Jamie Jenkins

Andrew Young 3

Andrew Young, Jr. apologized to the crowd for sitting while he spoke. He said sitting would help his 83 year old knees as he talked to the folks gathered at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Andy (as he likes to be called) Young was one of the closest friends and co-workers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and gave leadership to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Someone said, “At some point civil rights activists have to come in off the streets and get involved in politics.” And that is what he did when he was elected to the U.S. House of representatives in 1972 becoming the first African American to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction. Later President Jimmy Carter named him as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and after leaving that post he was elected Mayor of Atlanta in 1981.

Before his political career Young was a pastor. After graduating from Hartford Theological Seminary he was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ in 1955. That calling was very apparent when he used the words of the biblical prophet Micah as he spoke to the folks in church last Sunday. “What does God require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

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The crowd gathered in the Peachtree Road United Methodist sanctuary heard stories from Young’s childhood in New Orleans and how his father taught him about honesty and respect. Reflecting on his time as ambassador he told a story about a meal of cornbread, field peas, corn on the cob, and fried chicken prepared by his mother-in-law from Alabama in the kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York  for the Chinese delegation to the U.N. . This was an example of his belief that “breaking bread together” helps to transcend our differences.

As a youngster, Andrew Young, Jr. was an athlete. Once on a trip with his parents to North Carolina he ran to the top of Kings Mountain. As he stood at the top of that mountain and viewed the surrounding beauty, he said he became aware of God’s presence in a very special way. When he came down from the mountain he had a definite sense that God had a purpose for his life. He did not understand what it was but from that day onward he tried to be faithful every day to God.

I don’t believe that everyone who follows God’s will and purpose for their life will have such extraordinary experiences as Andrew Young. But I am convinced that if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing today, we will be where God wants us to be whenever God has something else for us. And that is the exciting way of faith!

Lord, help us to faithfully follow You in all our ways every day!

Jamie Jenkins