Archives for the month of: February, 2016

Retirement 1

I open my eyes and look at the clock beside my bed. The digital numbers are 5:55. It is still dark outside but I hear the words and the tune in my head: “O what a beautiful morning, O what a beautiful day.” It is time to get up.

But wait! I am retired. Why am I am getting out of bed before it is daylight? Because I want to, not because I have to.

Retirement 4

I prefer getting up early. Morning coffee. Quiet devotional time. Read the newspaper. Then I am ready to get on with whatever the day holds.

For many years, my alarm was set for 6:00 AM every day. I seldom set the alarm anymore. I don’t need to. I just wake up about the same time every morning. If I happen to sleep “late,” it is alright. I am retired.

I have worked most of my life starting at age nine shining shoes on the streets of Mobile, Alabama. Morning and afternoon paper routes, various jobs in grocery stores, and ending with 41 years as an ordained United Methodist minister when I retired in June 2013. I was not tired, bored, or burned out. I loved my work (most of the time). I felt like I was able to make a difference in people’s lives. There just came a time when it seemed like it was time to do something else.Retirement 3

I had no idea what I would do after I quit having specific responsibilities and expectations placed upon me. However, I knew it was time to make a transition. I believe if you are doing what you should be doing today, you will be where God wants you tomorrow. I had no real plans; nothing that I had put off until this time in my life.

Retirement means many things to different people. Some see it as an opportunity to cease from their labors. Others use this period of time to launch new careers. For me it meant a time of reduced stress and the opportunity to make more choices. Some retired people say they are busier now than when they were employed. That is not true for me. I have workaholic tendencies and have always had plenty to do. I am busy nowadays but it is “my busy.”

Retirement 5

There are occasional opportunities to preach or teach and I am grateful for those who issue those invitations. The church where my wife and I worship allows me to provide some pastoral care for the members. This has been very meaningful to me and hopefully helpful to others. There are a few other minor responsibilities that I have assumed but the buck always stops at someone else. I love to travel and share that experience with others (have passport and ready to go).

God has granted me good health and opened doors that I could never have imagined. I am grateful. It has long been my contention that folks in their “sunset years” have much to offer but are often overlooked or choose to be unavailable. The Bible tells us “With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding” (Job 12:12). I am not sure how much wisdom or understanding I have and I am not looking for another “job” but I want to be useful to God and God’s people as long as I am able.

Retirement 2

Retirement is good.

Jamie Jenkins

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The world is an interesting place. I am constantly surprised by strange sights and sounds. Let me share a few.

Marietta Tree Protest

Just last week the local news media ran a story about a woman camped out in a tree. Jenifer Firestone, a resident of Cross Creek Condos, used a ladder to climb a giant oak tree in an attempt to discourage Georgia Power from cutting it down. Residents were protesting the utility company’s plans to cut down some trees as a part of a large scale infrastructure project in Northwest Atlanta.

Brian McCann 1

Major League Baseball Spring Training is about to begin and the Atlanta Braves are a team I hardly recognize. There has been a wholesale dismantling of the team in the past few years. Although several major trades have been made, the one I still cannot quite comprehend occurred in December 2013 when Brian McCann was  sent to the New York Yankees. Seeing him in a Yankees uniform seems wrong.

Donald Trump

Candidates for President of the United States have been campaigning for what seems like an eternity. The rhetoric has been rather acrimonious. Some of the verbal exchanges have seemed like they came from 5th graders instead of candidates for the highest office in the land. But the strangest part of this crazy countdown to election day is the sight of billionaire entrepreneur Donald Trump as a serious contender.

rush limbaugh

I do not usually listen to talk radio but with the threat of ice or snow last week I turned my car radio on to catch the weather report. While I was waiting for Kirk Mellish’s latest predictions I heard Rush Limbaugh say, “Bill Clinton is the reason so many black men are in prison.” Strange sounds.

Duck Billed PlatypusHave you ever seen a Duck Billed Platypus. If you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor the sight of one of these unusual animals ought to give you a hunch.

Ash Wednesday 2
Last week I attended an Ash Wednesday service. With so much talk about the younger generation’s disdain for organized religion, I was surprised and pleased to see hundreds of young adults present for the imposition of ashes at the beginning of Lent.

Rice Fields 2

On a recent visit to southern Spain I was amazed to see rice fields. Just south of Valencia, between Suecca and Cullera, the countryside is covered with rice fields as far as the ey can see. That was a sight I did not expect.

Malaysia Houses of WorshipMy family spent a couple of weeks in Penang, Malaysia over the Christmas holidays in 2013. It was a fascinating experience but one of the most interesting things was to see Christian churches, Hindu and Buddhist Temples, and Moslem mosques side by side, sometimes even sharing a parking lot.

Diverging Diamond 1

Talk about a new idea. What about the new and rapidly expanding traffic control configuration called the Diverging Diamond. In the fall of 2000, Gilbert Chlewicki was a graduate student in transportation engineering when he decided he wanted to develop a new design and write a term paper on it. The result is a type of diamond interchange in which the two directions of traffic cross to the opposite side on both sides of a bridge at the freeway. It is unusual in that it requires traffic on the freeway overpass (or underpass) to briefly drive on the opposite side of the road from what is customary.

INDIA-SCIENCE-GEOLOGY-ACCIDENT

And did you hear  that for the first time in recorded history, a meteorite is reported to have killed a person? The incident happened February 6 when an object, thought to be a meteorite, hit a college campus in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The news reported that the impact killed a man and injured three others.

Tornado

I don’t know much about climate change but tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi at the same time as blizzards in the Mid West and Northeast!?

Is there any common thread to this, you ask. Is there a moral to these stories? Lessons for life? No! I just wanted to share some of the things that appeared to be out of the ordinary. Not all of the sights and sounds mentioned are “weird.” Some are just things I never thought I would see or hear. Some are simply curiosities. Others might be food for thought and conversation.

Jamie Jenkins

What strange sights and sounds have you seen or heard?

Ash Wednesday 4Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This forty day period (not counting Sundays) ends on Easter Sunday. This year it is from February 10 (Ash Wednesday) to March 27 (Easter), 2016.Lent 1

Lent is practiced by most, but not all, Christian groups. The emphasis is on spiritual purification, meditation and penance. The focus is not supposed to be on one’s self, but one’s relationship with God. Although it is not required, people often give up something during Lent as a means of self-discipline and identifying with the sacrifices that Christ made. Many choose instead to take on something during Lent like reading more of the Bible, diligently observing daily devotional times, or completing some work of charity.

Mardi GrasI grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a big part of our culture. However, I did not make the connection of this time of revelry with spirituality. I did not know that Mardi Gras meant “Fat Tuesday.” Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties. I suspect that most people see Mardi Gras as a big party that has little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity.

Fat Tuesday

According to The Upper Room,* “In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!”

“Why ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.” (The Upper Room)*

I gathered with others for Ash Wednesday service last night. At the beginning of the service we joined in saying,

O God of endless mercy, we gather on this day to acknowledge our mortality and our complete reliance on you for compassion and forgiveness. If there is any hope for us, O God, our hope rests completely in you. Have mercy, O God, have mercy. You are the source of our mortal life. You are the source of our spiritual life. You are the destiny to whom we return in the hope of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May the mark of mortality remind us of our dust-to-dust existence, and draw us nearer to you.

Ash Wednesday 2

Later we knelt at the altar and one of the ministers applied the sign of the cross on our foreheads and reminded us of our mortality and our need for repentance and forgiveness. Then we united in the Prayer of Confession:

Most Holy God, your Son came into the world to save sinners. We come to this season of repentance, confessing our unworthiness, asking for new and honest hearts, and seeking the healing power of your forgiveness. Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are repentant; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our separation from you, may obtain from you perfect remission and forgiveness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Ash Wednesday 1

We have started the Lenten journey which will lead us to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. During these days with God’s help, I hope to become a better person and follower of Christ. I pray that the days of Lent will do the same for you.

Jamie Jenkins

*The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginning as devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service. The Upper Room is a part of Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

TODAY 3

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I know you have heard that before. So what do you make of it.

If the circumstances of this day are desirable, should you expect that to be the case forever? If you find yourself in an unpleasant situation, does that mean the rest of life is going to be bad?

Paul Harvey said, “Tomorrow has always been better than today, and it always will be.” Do you believe that is true? No matter what your day is like today, tomorrow will be better? Some days you have to think like that because what you are experiencing today is horrible.  Things have to improve or you are not sure you can survive. You identify with the sentiments expressed by Chuck Palahniuk in his novel, Fight Club: “Today is the sort of day where the sun only comes up to humiliate you.”

TODAY 6

On the other hand, some days find you riding high. You find yourself singing Oscar Hammerstein’s words from the musical play, Oklahoma:

Oh what a beautiful mornin’

Oh what a beautiful day
I’ve got a beautiful feelin’
Everything’s going my way

And you think that it doesn’t get better than this.

Bill Keane, the originator of the long-running newspaper comic The Family Circus, once said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” Therefore, we follow the admonition to seize the day- Carpe Diem! Instead of an attitude of gloom and doom, you choose to accept “this is the day the Lord has made” and you resolve to “rejoice and be glad in it.”

TODAY 1

In an online blog a few years ago, Glennon Doyle Melton wrote: “Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc. I know that this message is right and good. But … I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn’t work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. (It) makes me worry that if I’m not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I’m doing something wrong.”

Melton goes on to explain the difference between Chronos (regular) time and Kairos (God’s) time. As the mother of three small children, she describes her days as enduring “hard, slow passing time.” She also recognizes Kairos- “those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day.”

Whatever today brings it is important to live in the moment. We must not deny harsh realities or expect blissful conditions always. Perhaps the advice offered by James Dean is fitting. “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

TODAY 4

A song from the 1970s musical Godspell offers good counsel.

Day by day, oh, dear Lord, three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day

As we sing these words and follow their direction, we remember Jesus’ instructions that loving God and loving each other go hand in hand. Today is the day!

Jamie Jenkins