Archives for the month of: June, 2016

Irving Berlin wrote the song God Bless America in 1918. In 1938 with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Berlin, who was Jewish, revised the song. Kate Smith introduced it on Armistice Day that year on her radio show and it became her signature song.

It is impossible for me to separate the song from Kate Smith. Countless millions have heard her rendition but in recent years I have come to associate another voice with the song. Timothy Miller, Atlanta Opera Tenor, sings the song during the seventh inning stretch on Sundays and holidays for the Atlanta Braves home baseball games.

This son of a career Army veteran turned Baptist preacher, sang in the Morehouse College Glee Club, graduated from that venerable institution in 2003, and is currently an adjunct professor of voice and music at his alma mater. He has taken his voice to some impressive places. The kid who began with hymns at his father’s church sang “Ain’t Got Time to Die” at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, sang the “National Anthem” and “To God be the Glory” at Nathan Deal’s 2011 inauguration, toured Europe doing “Porgy & Bess” and has appeared in numerous operas, many with the Atlanta Opera company.

I have heard Timothy sing many times during the Braves games but never has he sounded better than last Sunday at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. He began with the introduction that is now rarely heard:

“While the storm clouds gather far across the sea

Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.

Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,

As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.”

Then in his classically trained voice, he launched into the body of the patriotic tune:

God bless America,
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above

From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.
God bless America,
My home, sweet home.

Never have I heard it sung better and when the congregation joined him on the verse my spirit soared. This is more than a song, it is a prayer (Let us raise our voices in a solemn prayer) for God’s guidance (Stand beside her and guide her thru the night with a light from above). It recognizes the vastness and diversity of this country (from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam). It is a call to commitment (Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free) and an expression of gratitude “for a land so fair.”

I am thankful to be born and have lived all my life in America and I grateful for all this wonderful country affords. Many people have given their lives to preserving our freedoms. At the same time I understand that it is by God’s grace that we enjoy these cherished liberties.

As we approach Independence Day and we celebrate our freedoms, I am mindful that God HAS blessed us and I do not ever want to take that for granted. I will continue to ask for God to bless America, “my home, sweet home.” I will also ask God to guard me from becoming so self-centered that I forget that there are millions of people around the world whose “home sweet home” means as much to them as mine does to me. I will also remember that there are many for whom the storm clouds continue to gather.

God bless America. God bless your people everywhere.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

Quality of life and longevity do not necessarily go together. Many years do not guarantee a rich and full life but if I could choose, I would certainly want to stick around a long time.

Logo of WHO World Health Organization

According to the World Health Organization Japan has the highest overall average life expectancy of 84 years. Andorra, Australia, Italy, San Marino, Singapore, and Switzerland rank second with 83 years. African nations occupy the final 30 spots with Sierra Leone last with a life expectancy of 46 years. The United States is number 34 of 194 at 79 years.

There are many factors that effect how long one lives. Harry Truman said the secret to living a long life is to take a two-mile walk every day before breakfast. That might have worked for him but it is not for me.

George Burns Picture

George Burns was one of the few entertainers whose career successfully spanned vaudeville, radio, film and television. Before he died at the age of 100 he said, “f you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

A ninety year old man was asked to what he attributed his longevity. “I reckon,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “it is because most nights I went to bed and slept when I should have sat up and worried.”

A recent study cited on the website, Health.com, found that four bad behaviors—smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and not eating enough fruits and veggies—can age you by as many as 12 years.

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Julie Zaumer, writing for the Washington Post last month, offered one other suggestion for living longer. She cited a new study published recently by the American Medical Association which concluded that those who attend church services more often actually have a better chance of staying alive in the long run.

Small Rural Church in Texas Stock Image

Over a 20-year span, the study surveyed a group of more than 76,000 female nurses. More than 13,000 of them died during the 20 years. The women who went to religious services more than once a week were 33 percent less likely to be in that group who died, compared to those who never attended services.

Tyler VanderWeele, a researcher at Harvard’s school of public health who co-wrote the study, said participants who attended services once a week saw the odds of their dying go down 26 percent. Those who attended services less than weekly increased the odds of them dying 13 percent. In addition, they found the effect of religious attendance was stronger than that of any other form of participation in a social group like a book club or a volunteer organization.

So, if you want to live longer: don’t smoke, limit your alcohol consumption, eat your veggies, stay active, and attend worship services regularly.

I’ll see you in church.

Jamie Jenkins

A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet. 

Truman Capote

Several years ago Henry H. Knight III and Don E. Saliers wrote a book entitled The Conversation Matters. Because it specifically addressed concerns in The United Methodist Church, the sub-title was Why United Methodists Should Talk With One Another. I regret that I gave away my copy of that book when I retired three years ago.

The current climate, both secular and religious, demonstrates the need for guidance as we discuss (debate) issues of significance for all people. It seems that we are more likely to yell AT one another than to talk TO one another, especially when it comes to “hot button” issues. Knight and Saliers offer wise counsel to everyone, not just the targeted denominational population. We need to learn, or re-learn, how to talk WITH one another. That is true in all segments of society.

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Christian conferencing was a cornerstone of the early Methodist Movement. John Wesley believed that Christians gathered together in conversation guided by the Holy Spirit could discern God’s will. Christian conferencing was one of the Means of Grace that Wesley taught to assist persons in their spiritual formation.

I believe that John Wesley was onto something that will work not only for Christians but for people of all religious or non-religious orientations. If people will “reason together,” the possibility of solutions to our plaguing problems are promising.

“Discussion is impossible with someone who claims not to seek the truth, but already to possess it.”
Romain Rolland, Above the Battle

The introduction to Knight and Saliers’ book said, “While applauding those of the left and right for their commitments to matters of conviction, the authors point out that the acrimonious and accusatory nature of current debates does little to forward the truth that both sides contend is at stake. The authors argue for the recovery of … a way of carrying on debate that is (1) true to principles believed to be of crucial importance and (2) open to the possibility of changing one’s mind. They argue for ‘speaking the truth in love’ in a way that makes respect and love for others the paramount concern, and in which making an argument is not the same thing as having an argument.”

“I still believe in man in spite of man. I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.”
Elie Wiesel, Open Heart

The Apostle Paul offers guidance in his words to the Colossians when he said, “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  … Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

In a letter to United Methodists Bishop Janice Huie wrote, ” In much of the Western world, results are measured in terms of winners and losers. Holy Conferencing does not work that way. It focuses on discerning where God is leading us. It focuses on prayer, rational and respectful conversation, and a belief that with God, all things are possible.”

Lord, help us to regain the ability to have civil dialogue and mutual respect for all people.

Jamie Jenkins

I woke up this morning with a blue screen on my computer monitor and a “Welcome” from Microsoft to Windows 10. For about a year I have resisted the invitations that have appeared regularly to download this free upgrade from Windows 7 to the “new and improved” Windows 10.

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In Nate Ralph’s review of this new operating system (OS) for CNET he says, “Windows 10 delivers a refined, vastly improved vision for the future of computing… and it’s a free upgrade for most users.”

Regardless of whether  Windows 10 is better than the version that I have been using. I felt like I was a victim of what Brad Chacos, Senior Editor of PC World, calls ” the nasty new way that Microsoft’s tricking Windows 7 and 8 users into automatically updating to Windows 10.” Although he likes the new OS, Chacos objects to “the heavy handed tactics that Microsoft has been using to force people into the upgrade, all to hit a goal of migrating 1 billion users to an operating system” and methods “purposefully designed to confuse users who have been wearily slogging through the nagging” for months.

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Chacos expresses my feelings very well. I have been well satisfied with Windows 7 Home Professional for quite a while and felt no need to change. Repeatedly I said “No” to the suggestion that I schedule the download for this new version of Windows. I feel like Microsoft has forcibly taken control over my PC without my permission.

For months the Get Windows 10 pop up could not be disabled so you had to press the X repeatedly if you did not want to upgrade. Then Microsoft changed the pop up so that exiting the window now is treated as consent for the Windows 10 upgrade, rather than cancelling it.

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I acknowledge that I am often resistant to change even when it appears that this will be good for me. It takes time and some persuasion, or at least intentional thoughtful decision making, for me to make significant changes. It is possible, even likely, that Microsoft has done me a favor in the long run but I resent the use of “dirty tricks” to get it done. It will take some time for me to conclude that Windows 10 is an improvement. In the meantime, I don’t have positive feelings toward Microsoft.

Whether in business, politics or religion. In personal or corporate life. This experience reminds me that there is a wrong way to do the right thing. The end does not always justify the means. I hope I will remember that in all facets of life and my relationships with others.

Jamie Jenkins