Archives for the month of: August, 2016

Everyone has faith- in someone or something.

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We have faith in our parents. When we are young we trust them and believe they are the wisest people around and can work miracles. During our teenage years that perspective changes but then as we reach adulthood we realize they might really know what they are talking about.

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We have faith in our spouse. Although there might be things about which we disagree, we know that he/she can be trusted to have our back. You can depend on her/him to be honest with you and tell you the truth. They will be there when the going gets tough and there is no one better than him/her with whom to share your joys and sorrow.

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If we have a healthy self-image, we have faith in ourselves. It is possible to be overly confident and become an egomaniac, but a healthy individual has a realistic assessment of their abilities.. If we are intentional about learning and growing,  we will know our capabilities and our limitations.

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We have faith in wise and intelligent people who invest themselves in their academic or professional disciplines. Their conclusions are well thought out and substantiated with reliable factual data. We invest our money, our health, our security, and much more because we trust their economic, philosophical, and scientific theories.

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We are skeptical of the folks who predict the weather but we apparently have faith in them. Otherwise why would we take an umbrella with us when they say it is going to rain. Even if it does not rain as predicted, we still trust them and the umbrella we carry the next time rain is in the forecast is ample evidence.

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I saw a wonderful example of faith the other day as I drove down Peachtree Road in Atlanta. Hundreds of people were walking down the sidewalks in front of Lenox Square Mall. When the traffic light turned red I stopped and dozens of people streamed across those eight lanes of traffic without even looking to the right or the left. Obviously they had faith that I and the other motorists were going to stop when we were supposed to.

Evidence of faith is everywhere and everyone has a measure of it. So why is it so hard for some to accept faith in God? Some of us are cynical, at best, when it comes to putting  our faith in something/someone that we cannot see or touch. Yet, we risk our lives on so many different levels to people or principles that we cannot see and do not encounter face to face.13251-trustgodlife-1200w-tn_

To deny that faith in God is a valid disposition would make sense only if we did not trust anything or anyone. To fail to recognize that faith in God is a solid principle on which to base our lives, is as ridiculous as if we did not believe that water is wet or that the sun is hot. Without faith one could not function in life. “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, The Message)

Jamie Jenkins

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The pursuit of happiness is one of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration of Independence says has been given to all human beings by their Creator. However, happiness is often considered elusive and fleeting. Nathaniel Hawthorne said that “happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

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Recent research suggests that happiness can be attributed to three major sources: genes, events and values. Data suggests that if we understand them we can improve our lives and the lives of others.

According to the researchers, data on happiness remain fairly consistent. Arthur C. Brooks reports in the New York Times that every other year for four decades, roughly a third of Americans have said they’re “very happy,” and about half report being “pretty happy.” Only about 10 to 15 percent typically say they’re “not too happy.”

Although there are demographic differences that can affect the statistics, about 48 percent of our happiness is inherited from our parents. Studies further suggest that isolated events control up to 40 percent of our happiness at any given time. Social scientists say that we can control the remaining 12 percent if we pursue four basic values: faith, family, community and work.

The website www.lifehack.org offers another formula for happiness: Letting Go + Acceptance + Gratitude. This suggests that the best things you can do with your life is to “let go of what was and what will be and be okay with it, thankful for it, and appreciate it.”

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In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers at University College of London have provided another formula for happiness. They created an equation that accurately predicted the happiness of over 18,000 people. Participants in the study completed certain decision making tasks. Then researchers used MRI imaging to measure their brain activity and asked them repeatedly, “How happy are you now?” This testing resulted in the following equation:

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You will have to do your own research to figure out what all that means.

The suggestions based on studies that are offered above are worth considering, but I commend the following to you as a formula for happiness that I think will work.

Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, offered another formula for happiness in his sermon last Sunday.* He based it on Philippians 4:4-7 in the Bible.

  • Be gentle
  • Don’t worry about anything
  • Pray about everything
  • Be thankful for all things

Actually Rev. Britt gave only three steps. I have added one: Be gentle. The Message translates those two words in verse 5: “Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

This formula sandwiched between “The Lord is near” and “the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds” offers a simple but effective process for pursuing happiness.

Jamie Jenkins

*Rev. Britt’s sermon can be viewed at http://www.prumc.org

 

Safety officials and medical professionals report that pedestrian accidents are becoming more common leaving many people with bruises and lacerations. This phenomenon is not the result of encounters with automobiles but with other pedestrians. As more folks are walking without looking where they are going collisions occur frequently on the sidewalks and in shopping malls.

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The increased use of hand held devices have increased the likelihood that people bump into each other more often. Serious, and not so serious, injuries are on the rise. A recent three-person accident on a busy sidewalk resulted in the one of the most serious incidents. A young man playing Pokemon Go collided with a woman talking on her cell phone and a couple who were taking a selfie. Each of the injured blamed the others for being careless.

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The Washington Post recently carried a story about another fairly new health hazard. It reported that “text neck is becoming an epidemic and could wreck your spine.” According to a study published in Surgical Technology International, when the neck bends forward the weight of the human head on the cervical spine increases. This is the burden that comes with staring at a smartphone which millions of people do for hours every day.

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According to research published in the National Library of Medicine, Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, says “the poor posture can lead to early wear-and-tear on the spine, degeneration, and even surgery.”

A national chain of physical therapy clinics reports that more teens than ever are complaining of “text neck,” or back and neck pain that can only be explained by the strain on the body caused by constant viewing of hand-held technology. “We have teens experiencing the same shoulder, neck and back pain usually felt by people 30 years older,” said physical therapist Megan Randich.

One of the two stories above is an exaggerated fabrication to call attention to our attachment (addiction?) to portable technology. The other is a factual report of a medical issue that is fairly new among us. You can verify the authenticity of the information on “text neck” and you can only imagine that the reported pedestrian collisions are only slightly theoretical.

The intent of this writing is not to emphasize the negative aspect of technology. My purpose is simply to accent the potential downside to the wonderful advantages of cellphones, tablets and other devices. There are many pros and cons to technology, like almost anything else. Even things that are essential to life (food, exercise, etc.) can be abused and in excess can be harmful. Rest and relaxation, meditation and introspection are as important as our physical activity and human interaction. The real issue is balance. To take advantage of the positive elements and minimize or avoid extremes.

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That which is true for physical and mental health is also valid for our spiritual life. We need a balance of belief and action- faith and works (James 2:14-17). What we believe is important but it needs to be balanced by our actions. Whether it is in our service to others or our own self-care, moderation/balance is essential if we are to lead wholesome and holy lives.

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Jamie Jenkins

Early one morning last week I walked outside my house to discover two naked ladies by my driveway and an army marching up toward the house. No I not am exaggerating or imagining. They were there for the whole world to see. However, there was no need to rush to get my camera or to call for reinforcements.

The two naked ladies were standing tall and proud among the roses alongside our driveway. These beautiful flowers have many identities. They are called Belladonna Lilies, Belladonna Amaryllis, Jersey lily, resurrection lily, magic lily, surprise lily or the March lily, depending on what part of the world you may live in.

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This gorgeous flower produces green, leafy growth that emerges in spring and dies back by mid-summer. In late summer, leafless stems produce elegant, pink flowers. The stem without leaves is why it is called “naked lady.”

As I was enjoying these beautiful naked ladies I noticed dozens of caterpillars advancing steadily up the driveway headed to the flower beds. Each one of this army of little critters is basically a “stomach with legs.” Gardening guru Walter Reeves said “their existence is dominated by the urge to eat as many leaves as possible in the shortest time period.” I felt that it was my duty to save the plants in my wife’s garden from destruction by this invading army.

Now admit it, when you saw the heading of this column, did you jump to wrong conclusions about the subject matter? Did you keep reading because you thought the topic was something other than what you discovered it to be? Were you disappointed?

In this day of sound bites and the media frenzied world we live in it is easy to get wrong impressions and be led to faulty conclusions. Words and images inform and influence us. We need to be careful that we are not manipulated by them

I remember ordering a small drink at a fast food restaurant several years ago and being told they did not have small beverages, only medium, large and extra-large. Call it whatever you wish but one of those offerings was the least-big of the three.

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Products on the supermarket shelves often claim to be “new and improved.” That designation is supposed to attract our attention and influence our buying decision. Is it really “new” and what is “improved” about it?

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Have you received a call offering you a free vacation? If you listened to the spiel, you probably learned that it might be “free” but there were some charges involved.

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There was a day when gambling was viewed by most people as an undesirable activity. We are now supposed to believe that it is a healthy and wholesome activity where people have loads of fun. The gambling establishments are now presented as entertainment venues frequented only by happy and healthy individuals. The picture that is painted has very little basis in reality but we are intrigued by the inviting images and the positive descriptions.

Jesus warned of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Things are often “dressed up” to deceive us. We must guard our minds, our hearts, and our wallets lest we become ensnared by naked ladies and invading armies.

Jamie Jenkins