Archives for the month of: January, 2017

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Seen on a billboard: “Live generously and life will reward you royally.” I don’t know what it had to do with the well-known brand of liquor it was advertising but I liked the slogan.

A recent Huffington Post blog reported that researchers have discovered that the area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings and pleasure rewards, lights up when we give to a charitable cause showing the link between charitable giving and pleasure. They assert that “this response to giving is the physiological reason behind the ‘warm glow’ or that good feeling you get when you give and why you may choose to spend money on others or charity compared to yourself.”

A couple of years ago the New Republic published an interview by Jordan Michael Smith with sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, authors of The Paradox of Generosity, which presents the findings of the Science of Generosity Initiative at Notre Dame. Researchers for the initiative surveyed 2,000 individuals over a five-year period. They interviewed and tracked the spending habits and lifestyles of 40 families from different classes and races in 12 states, even accompanying some to the grocery store.

 

The result is among the most comprehensive studies of Americans’ giving habits ever conducted. They concluded that people who are generous with their money are healthier and happier.

The sociologists believe that “it’s circular. The more happy and healthy and directed one is in life, the more generous one is likely to be. It works as an upwards spiral where everything works together, or it works sometimes as a downward spiral if people aren’t generous.”

These two reports agree that our brains seem to suggest that the joy of being a gift’s giver may eclipse that of being its recipient.”

Maybe that is what Jesus meant when He said “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold” (Luke 6:38). It certainly affirms the words of the Apostle Paul that it is “more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). I like the way The Message puts it: “You’re far happier giving than getting.”

Although we are happier and healthier when we give, the purpose of generosity is to benefit others. Tom Stoddard understands that we will give sacrificially for our children and those whom we love and he rightly states, “The trick in life is to take that sense of generosity between kin, make it apply to the extended family and to your neighbor, your village and beyond.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

Perhaps you have played the Gossip Game. The first person in a group is handed a piece of paper with a gossip phrase or sentence written on it. This player reads the phrase but doesn’t show it to anyone else. He or she whispers the phrase to the next person in line, who whispers what they thought they heard to the next person, and so on down the line. The last person repeats what he/she heard to the entire group. The first person then tells the group what the phrase actually was.

If you have played the game, you know that the final report is always much different from what is was at the beginning. That simple game demonstrates how difficult it is communicate effectively and accurately. What one hears is not necessarily what is said. People “have the unique ability to listen to one story and hear another” (Pandora PoikilosExcuse Me, My Brains Have Stepped Out).

Cover of Review of General Psychology (medium)

The fact that language is not always a reliable vehicle for communication leads to gossip and the spreading of rumors.  Researchers wrote in a 2004 study in the Review of General Psychology: “In many cases defamation of the target’s character is not the primary goal, and may even be irrelevant.” Nevertheless, conversations or reports about other people or events easily result in details that are not confirmed as being true. It is just the way it works but sometimes it is intentional.

In the book, The Untrivial Pursuit, Joseph Epstein says, “Gossip is no trivial matter; despite its reputation. He also concludes that gossip has “morphed from its old-fashioned best—clever, mocking, a great private pleasure—to a corrosive new-school version, thanks to the reach of the mass media and the Internet.”

American poet and philosopher Criss Jami concludes that “Popular culture is a place where pity is called compassion, flattery is called love, propaganda is called knowledge, tension is called peace, (and) gossip is called news.” In this age of information, social media provides a much faster way to share gossip. In only a matter of minutes, gossip and rumors can spread online around the world.

When we are bombarded with information, how do we filter it? How do we separate useful information from gossip? The most obvious answer would be of course to use our common sense. However, that clearly doesn’t seem to be helping. This story of the Greek philosopher Socrates might help us make better judgments about the information that we consume on the internet or from any source.

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In ancient Greece, Socrates was visited by an acquaintance of his. Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs. Socrates replied that before the man spoke, he needed to pass the “Triple-Filter” test.

 

He explained, the first filter is Truth. “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” The man shook his head. “No, I actually just heard about it, and …”

Socrates cut him off. “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?” Again, the man shook his head. “No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”

Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man speaking. “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One filter still remains, though, so you may yet still tell me. That is Usefulness or Necessity. Is this information useful or necessary to me?”  A little defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”

“Well, then,” Socrates said, turning on his heel. “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”

The Bible offers the following instruction that underscores Socrates’ instruction: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. Never say anything that isn’t true. Have nothing to do with lies and misleading words” (Proverbs 4:23-24Good News Translation).

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

Did you know that

  • President Obama signed an executive order to remove the phrase “under God” from the U.S. pledge of allegiance.
  • a Republican lawmaker has proposed a saliva test to determine that poor people are actually hungry before they can use food stamps.
  • the Zika virus is being spread by genetically modified mosquitoes.
  • It has been discovered that solar panels are draining the sun of its energy
  • a Nazi submarine has been spotted in the Great Lakes.
  • Miami, Florida has introduced new texting-friendly expressway lanes complete with “safety bumpers” along the sides.
  • the United States has banned the popular game Pokemon Go.

Actually, none of the above statements are true. All of them are fabricated and false.These are just a few examples of “fake news.”

I remember a college classmate showing his innocence or ignorance by declaring, “If it wasn’t true, they wouldn’t put it in the newspaper.” With the proliferation of social media it has become so easy to spread rumors, gossip, and untruths but many people accept them as factual. I suspect my college friend would be one of those to whom the fake news websites would cater.

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According to one source as much of 60% of the links shared on social media are shared based on the title alone, with the sharer not actually reading the article itself.

Hoaxes, misinformation, and propaganda are routinely and deliberately published. They seek to mislead rather than entertain for financial gain or other reasons. One news source “described the proliferation of fake news as a form of psychological warfare.”

False information is also shared at times through respected media sources, albeit not intentional. At 7:55 PM EST last Friday the Washington Post sparked a wave of fear when it ran the headline “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, U.S. officials say.”

About an hour and a half later the utility company itself issued a formal statement rejecting the Post’s claims: “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”

Almost a full hour more the Post finally updated its article and changed the headline. Finally more than a half day later the newspaper added an editorial note at the very bottom of the article acknowledging that the earlier story was incorrect. By that time thousands of people had read and believed that Russian hackers has breached the U.S. electricity grid.

All fake news is not the result of some well-conceived conspiracy produced purposely or some news outlet failing to verify the facts. Ordinary people often post or tweet false information that is then seized on and spread through the internet. One example is 35 year-old Eric Tucker from Austin, Texas. He had about 40 followers on Twitter but during the presidential election campaign he posted that paid protesters were being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald Trump.

Mr. Tucker’s post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr. Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters. But that didn’t matter. The firestorm had already begun.

There is enough real bad news in the world without fake news causing unnecessary anxiety and harm.

In contrast to fake news or bad news, God taking on human form and becoming one of us is incredibly Good News. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” (John 3:16, The Message).

Jamie Jenkins

 

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I am old enough to watch Jeopardy without apology or embarrassment. Alex Trebeck, the host of the television answer and question game show for 32 years, has become a friend. As I watch each episode I am sometimes surprised at what I know but more often reminded of how little I know.

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Recently one contestant won several days and amassed a pretty nice sum of money. During each show she showed little emotion. As I watched each episode I wondered why she didn’t show some disappointment when things weren’t going well or how she could keep from getting excited when she won. I was a bit critical of her demeanor. After winning six games and $103,801 I was glad another Jeopardy “champion” was named.

Then I learned Cindy Stowell’s story.

The episodes in which Cindy competed were taped in August and September of this year but her first episode did not air until December 13. Competing on Jeopardy was a life-long dream.

Cindy passed the online contestant test in early 2016. When she received an invitation to an in person interview this past summer she contacted the show’s contestant producer with this message.

“Do you have any idea how long it typically takes between an in person interview, and the taping date? I ask because I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live. The doctor’s best guess is about 6 months. If there is the chance that I’d be able to still tape episodes of Jeopardy, if I were selected, I’d like to do that and donate any winnings to … charities involved in cancer research. If it is unlikely that the turnaround time would be that quick, then I’d like to give up my try out spot to someone else.”

Learning that the 41 year old science content developer from Austin, Texas had Stage 4 cancer, she was told to attend her audition in Oklahoma City. If she qualified to compete on the show, she would be booked for a taping as soon as the show’s schedule would allow — three weeks later, August 31, 2016.

Image result for images of Cindy Stowell

Cindy lost her battle with cancer on December 5, eight days before her first episode aired.

When Cindy was in the hospital, Jeopardy sent her advance copies of her first three episodes, so she and her family were able to watch her competing on the show. Jeopardy also expedited Cindy’s prize money, and she received and acknowledged it before she passed.

The family released the following statement: “Cindy came on Jeopardy to play the game she loved and in doing so, she was able to make a contribution to cancer research in the hopes that no one else would have to go through what she did.”

When I learned Cindy’s story I felt bad about my feelings toward her during the shows. But it taught me a few lessons which I will try to incorporate into my life going forward.

  • Be slow to judge. I can’t always see the whole picture or know the full story..
  • Live each day like it was my last. It could be.
  • Maximize opportunities to do good.
  • Focus on what I have and can do, not what I don’t have or think I can’t do.

Jamie Jenkins

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On this first day of the New Year the words of the following hymn, written by Brian Wren, gives good guidance.

This Is A Day Of New Beginnings

 This is a day of new beginnings,
time to remember and move on,
time to believe what love is bringing,
laying to rest the pain that’s gone.

For by the life and death of Jesus,
love’s mighty Spirit, now as then,
can make for us a world of difference,
as faith and hope are born again.

Then let us, with the Spirit’s daring,
step from the past and leave behind
our disappointment, guilt, and grieving,
seeking new paths, and sure to find.

Christ is alive, and goes before us
to show and share what love can do.
This is a day of new beginnings;
our God is making all things new.

-Brian Wren, 1978

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I pray that God will bless and guide you throughout the coming year.

Jamie Jenkins