Archives for the month of: November, 2015

 

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Today is the fourth Thursday in November. That means it is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared in one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For the next two centuries days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a national Thanksgiving Day be held on the final Thursday in November. Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. There was much opposition to Roosevelt’s plan, known as Franksgiving, and in 1941 the president signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

This past week I visited several people who are homebound or hospitalized. A common thread in all our conversations was thanksgiving. Repeatedly I heard expressions of gratitude and an acknowledgement that we are blessed beyond our imagination.

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Like many others I will gather with family and friends for an abundant feast today. We will eat a lot and watch seemingly endless football games. All of this is important because it nurtures our relationships, but thanksgiving requires more than a passive attitude.

I am thankful for my family who love me and has always supported me. Therefore I do everything possible to provide whatever they need.

I am thankful for God who loves me unconditionally. Therefore I devote my time, energy, and talents to serve God’s people in the Church and throughout the world.

I am thankful for good health. Therefore I attempt to take advantage of opportunities to learn and explore.

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I am thankful for the freedoms that I enjoy in this country. Therefore I will strive to protect and preserve them for everyone.

I am grateful for all my resources. Therefore I seek to use them not only for myself but for the benefit of humankind.

It would be impossible to list all the things for which I am thankful. There are so many and so many which I simply take for granted. If you are interested, you can take a look at a few of them in the postscript.

Last Sunday Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, said “We don’t give God thanks for our circumstances. We give God thanks in our circumstances.” I think that is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God for you.” All things that happen to us are not God’s will but God does desire us to always have an attitude of gratitude.

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Author and publisher Fred De Witt Amburgh said, “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Thanksgiving is not self centered or passive. People with grateful hearts give. According to philanthropist W. Clement Stone, “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.”

Thanksgiving is, after all, a word of action. In other words, it is “thanks-living.”

Jamie Jenkins

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P.S. Other things for which I am thankful:

A good cup of coffee in the morning

Grandchildren (and their parents)

Ice cream (especially on weekends)

A wife who love sports (and me)

A safe neighborhood

The internet (when it works)

Skype

A comfortable pair of shoes

Opportunities to travel and see the beauty of God’s earth and its people

An electric car that is fun to drive

Any automobile that gets me where I need to go

All the folks who volunteer in the church and other helping organizations

The Atlanta Braves (wait until next year)

People who give generously of their time, talent, and money for the benefit of others

The United Methodist Church that has nurtured me and my family

My wife’s love for flowers and the beauty of her garden

Music- everything from classical to blues

Story tellers

My children and grandchildren who roll their eyes at my corny jokes but love me any way

The comics and their creators- especially Get Fuzzy (Darby Conley), Overboard (Chip Dunham), Pearls Before Swine (Stephan Pastis)

People who are positive about life no matter the circumstances

A warm house and a comfortable bed at night

Good (clean) jokes

Gifted preachers who work at their craft and deliver meaningful and challenging sermons

Church choirs who work hard to learn their music and offer it in worship

The people of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church for embracing me and my wife

Rainy days and Mondays- and every day whatever the weather

My children’s spouses who love them and enrich our family

 

 

 

 

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In light of the horror of this past week in Paris, there are many calls to fight fire with fire. An eye for an eye. It is easy to understand this attitude in its context. Certainly someone needs to be held accountable and there must be consequences for this senseless slaughter. A reasoned but firm response is necessary but knee jerk reactions often result in undesirable unintended consequences rather than  a solution to the problem.

The growing threat of ISIS must be confronted. We cannot ignore it but we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in our response.

In a recent Republican Presidential Candidate debate Sen. Marco Rubio was accused of being a “closet moderate.” This designation was not delivered as a compliment but a criticism. Perhaps the criticism was not about Rubio’s position but the fact that he has disguised or hidden his real feelings. If he has not been open and transparent, I suppose that is valid criticism.

We live in a time where militant, fanatical individuals and groups seem to get all the spotlight. Radicalism and extremism are on the rise and are dangerous. The voice of reason often gives in to those who would “bomb the ____ out of them.”

“The strength of democratic societies

relies on their capacity to know how

to stand firm against extremism while

respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism.”

(Tariq Ramadan)

Religious and political radicals represent only a fringe element but they cause much harm. I am not speaking only of Islamic radicals although there is reason to be alarmed about them. Extremists pose real danger whether they are white supremacists or fundamentalist Muslims. Devotees to any religion or political faction who advocate for destruction of those who are different from them are cause for alarm.

When I refer to “radicals” and extremists” I am not suggesting that strong commitment to a cause or belief system is a bad thing. However, when that commitment marginalizes, endangers, or destroys anyone, it is wrong.

Dwight Eisenhower

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

People who represent extreme perspectives can be helpful. The presence of strongly divergent opinions can cause us to begin to see and understand things that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. Mutual respect and civil discourse among people who disagree can lead to heighted awareness and constructive change. But hateful and derogatory language and actions cause pain and foster further division.

 “If we destroy human rights and rule of law

in the response to terrorism, they have won.”

-Joichi Ito

A “moderate” is one who stands between two extremes. Is that a bad thing? Dictionaries define “moderate” with the following terms: reasonable, sensible, restrained, fair, temperate, judicious. These seem to be attributes that would be viewed favorably by most decent people.

Clint Eastwood

“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position and that’s it.

It doesn’t take much thought.

And when you go far enough to the right

you meet the idiots coming around from the left.”

-Clint Eastwood

Things often appear to be “right or wrong” but many times the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. The person who is a centrist (moderate) sees the value of seemingly opposite opinions and attempts to effect a synthesis of perspectives that is more balanced. Perhaps everything is not “either/or.” Maybe a better position often is “both/and.”

Let us pray and work for peace as we strive to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and believe is the right of every human being.

Jamie Jenkins

 

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Someone described me as a realistic optimist. I am not exactly sure what that is or if it is an accurate assessment. Nevertheless I do believe that denying reality is not helpful but one does not have to be beaten down by it.

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Honestly facing realities that are unpleasant is the first step in amending circumstances, attitudes, or actions when things are not what you want them to be or how they should be.

Once you acknowledge that something is bad or wrong, you can begin to change some things for the better. On other occasions you must come to terms with the fact that you cannot always have what you want and you make proper preparations for future outcomes.

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But you say, I believe in miracles. I do too but I recognize that they don’t always occur when and where I want them to occur.

Recently I heard Phil and Dave Alvin sing “I believe this old world is in a bad condition.” I thought to myself, “Boy, they are right!” Accepting that reality does not lead me to be fatalistic or negative. Instead it helps me realize that there is work to be done. I believe that things don’t have to stay the way they are and I must do all I can to effect positive change. I must also be prepared to accept the limitations of being human. While there are some things I can change, there are many more that are beyond my ability.

Health issues, economic disasters, broken relationships, bigotry, war, famine, prejudice and a million other things may cause concern, but I cannot fix all the problems of my own life and I am definitely unable to change the whole world.

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You say, “But God can do anything.” I believe that, but I recognize that God does not correct all our mistakes or change all of our painful experiences. I have faith in God but God is not a genie that awaits my beck and call. I do not understand why some things are the way they are- both “good” and “bad” things. But I accept things as they are and trust God to work in mysterious and miraculous ways to make things right.  Or to give me the strength to make it through.

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When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace they said to King Neduchadnezzar, “Our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not…” (Daniel 3:17-18)

John Sammis understood that everyone is subject to suffering and sorrow when he wrote:

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

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Inherent in the words of that hymn and in the words of the Hebrew Children is the understanding that things will not always be pleasant. The presence of adversity and difficulty is not an indication that God has abandoned us or that we lack faith. In fact, we can depend on God to be with us in all of the trials of life. Not always to extricate us from the problems but to be with us in them.

I am called to trust and obey. To do all that I can and leave the rest up to God. Often I simply have to accept that it is what it is and not lose faith regardless of the outcome.

Jamie Jenkins

It was another reminder that no matter how much money you throw at something you are not guaranteed success.

Fox Sports paid $500M to televise  Major League Basebal games including the World Series.In spite of this big outlay of money and the latest technology, Fox faced “a stark and embarrassing broadcast bungle” during the first game of the World Series last week.  Daniel Roberts wrote in Fortune Magazine: “At 9:18 p.m. Eastern Time, with a 1-1 score in the fourth inning, the telecast picture vanished: no visuals, no audio.”

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$500M and still they were greatly embarrassed. The network quickly posted a sign on screen that they were experiencing “Technical Difficulty.” Both Fox’s primary and backup generators were hit with a “rare electronics failure,” causing the loss of power and the 4 minute blackout that followed.

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Jordi Alemany, Director General at Solar Rocket in Valencia, Spain, reminds us that, “Money has been with us for more than ten thousand years. It has become a vital element in our lives, to the point where without money, you can literally die.”

In other words, we have come to the place that we think money is the answer to everything- career, marriage, family, winning sports team, and almost anything else. If you have enough money, you can have what you want. Or so it seems.

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The World Series reminds us that money cannot even guarantee a championship baseball team. It is interesting to note that this year’s combined salaries of the two teams in the World Series- the New York Mets and the Kansas City Royals- is less than half of the combined salaries of the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, neither of which made it to the World Series ($492M vs. $214M).

The first hit record for the Motown record label was a song written by Berry Gordon and Janie Bradford. Barrett Strong sang “Money (That’s what I Want)” in 1959. The song was later recorded by many artists including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors. In 1960 the song was listed as #288 on Rolling Stone’s “Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

The lyrics of that hit song recognizes that “money don’t get everything it’s true” but it goes on to claim that “what it don’t get, I can’t use.” Several years later John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote a song that the Beatles recorded which asserted “I don’t care too much for money. Money can’t buy me love.”

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There are many things that money can provide but the really important things in life do not have price tags. Health, love, happiness, integrity, peace of mind, intelligence, spiritual enlightenment, self-worth, security, an honest opinion, time, trust- just to mention a few.

Someone has suggested that it is good to have money and the things that money can buy but it is good to check up once in a while to be sure you have not lost the things that money can’t buy.

Jamie Jenkins

What is your list of things that money can’t buy?