Archives for the month of: January, 2019

Helen Hayes was often introduced as “First Lady of American Theater” for her outstanding accomplishments on stage and screen. She is one of only 15 people who have collected an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award.

Hayes also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, from President Ronald Reagan in 1986. In 1988, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Ms. Hayes began her stage career at an early age. With her mother’s encouragement she attended dance classes as a youngster and made her stage debut as a five-year-old singer at Washington’s Belasco Theater, on Lafayette Square, across from the White House. At age nine, she made her Broadway debut as Little Mimi in the Victor Hugo operetta Old Dutch, and at age 10 she was cast in the one-reel film Jean and the Calico Cat.

Early in her life Ms. Hayes’ mother gave her this advice: “Achievement is the knowledge that you have studied and worked hard and done the best that is in you. Success is being praised by others, and that’s nice too, but not as important or satisfying. Always aim for achievement and forget about success.”

According to her daughter-in-law, Hayes took the most pride in her philanthropic work with Helen Hayes Hospital, a physical rehabilitation hospital located in West Haverstraw, NY. She was extremely proud of the strides the hospital made toward the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, saying, “I’ve seen my name in lights on theater marquees and in letters 20 feet tall on Broadway billboards, but nothing has ever given me greater sense of pride and satisfaction than my 49-year association with this unique hospital.”

The life of this famous actor is a reminder that success might make one happy whereas achievement makes one proud. George Washington Carver said, “There is no shortcut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation – veneer isn’t worth anything.” Dr. Bo Bennett agrees, “The discipline you learn and character you build from setting and achieving a goal can be more valuable than the achievement of the goal itself.”

Writing in Forbes Magazine, Jim Blasingame says that “Today success is synonymous with celebrating at the finish line, holding the trophy or the check, while achievement has more of a work and effort connotation.” However, he suggests that we build “more memories of the journey of work and effort toward your goals than of the high fives at the end.” He concludes by saying, “No one lives their life in the winner’s circle. Strive for success, but focus on achievement.”

As followers of Jesus Christ we are not called to be successful but we are expected to apply ourselves and do our best at everything we do. The Apostle Peter instructs us to do everything so that God will be honored (I Peter 4:11). The Apostle Paul also emphasizes that everything we do should be for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

Lord, help us to live as faithful disciples striving to be the best we can be always seeking to serve others.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

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Things don’t always work out like you planned. That is a truism that I realized recently.

My wedding anniversary is December 28. This past year was the 50th. A year or so ago my wife and I told our children that we did not want a party to celebrate the milestone. After all, no one needs another party sandwiched between Christmas and New Year’s. We decided that we just wanted all of our family to be together doing something fun. So we planned a family trip to Peru over the holidays.

After a year of planning the time came and we all arrived in Lima on December 22. After a short visit to this beautiful coastal city we made our way to visit historical sites of the ancient Pre-Inca and Inca civilizations in the majestic Andes Mountains.

Our itinerary would have us in Machu Picchu on Christmas Day. The Incas built this estate for the Inca ruler Pachacutec around 1450. It sits about 8,000 feet above sea level and is nestled on a small hilltop of the Andean Mountain Range above the Urabamba Valley. It was abandoned a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. This majestic city was unknown to most of the world until an American historian and explorer, Hiram Bingham, “discovered” it in 1911 and brought it international attention.

Everything was going as planned until Christmas Eve when I began to experience altitude sickness caused by low levels of oxygen at high elevations. Severe stomach cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and weakness prompted a visit by a doctor to my hotel room. Medication helped enough to have a cursory visit to Machu Picchu the next day.

The next day after our visit to Machu Picchu we traveled to Cusco, the historic capital of the Inca Empire from the 13th until the 16th-century. The city is about 11,000 feet above sea level and this caused my wife to suffer from altitude sickness as well. Another doctor’s “house call” to treat her prompted us to change plans because the next stop was on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the “highest navigable lake” in the world at 12,500 feet above sea level.

Initially we planned to have a 50th Anniversary Dinner at Lake Titicaca. Instead we sent the rest of the family on and my wife and I returned to the lower altitude of Lima where we “celebrated” our anniversary as we began our marriage- just the two of us.

While this was not what we planned, it really worked out alright.

We were happy that our children, their spouses, and our grandchildren were having a wonderful time exploring the Uros islands of Lake Titicaca that are inhabited by the Uru people who have lived on the lake for hundreds of years. The islands are made almost entirely from dried totora reeds which grow naturally and abundantly in the lake.

At the same time my wife and I, both of whom were feeling much better at the lower altitude, had some really good time together- just the two of us. We reflected on our life together and remembered many of the experiences of that half-century. We laughed and cried as we shared stories of good time and “not so good’ times.

Those couple of days of “down time” really helped to realize that we had much to celebrate. In sharing this time together we both were acutely aware of our blessings and felt the strength of our love for each other. In a couple of days our family returned to Lima and all of us celebrated God’s gifts to us- all together.

I am glad that our plans fell through because something better occurred. Thanks be to God!

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

 

 

I heard someone recently say, “Getting old is not for sissies.” They were referring to the increased aches and pains that are a normal part of the aging process. The moving parts of our bodies tend to show effects of the wear and tear of years.

Advancing years may bring with it some new realities. Days turn into weeks and weeks become months which lead to years and decades. The mileage of all that time can take a toll on the physical body and on the mind.

If one is not careful, growing old can be negative. Fretting over the things that are not like they used to be can cripple our thinking. If unchecked, focusing on the things that are lost, or at least diminished, is an unhealthy practice and will dampen our enthusiasm for the life that remains.

Time marches on and so can we even when the years pile up. But we do not have to grow “old.”  Growing old is a simple matter of chronology. Growing “older” is an attitude- a state of mind. Rather than focusing on the limitations and often failing health of advancing years, we can embrace the new realities and recognize the advantages.

Andy Rooney was an American radio and television writer who was best known for his weekly broadcast “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”, a part of the CBS News program 60 Minutes from 1978 to 2011. His final regular appearance on 60 Minutes aired on October 2, 2011. He died one month later on November 4, 2011 at age 92.

Rooney said, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” A prayer of Moses in the Bible (Psalm 90) extols the eternity of God and the transitory nature of humanity. He observes that “We live for seventy years or so (with luck we might make it to eighty), and what do we have to show for it? Trouble. Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard.” Then he asks God to “Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!” (Psalm 90:10-12, The Message).

We have a choice as we age. We can resent the loss of our youthfulness or we can choose to maximize the benefits of our years of experience. Academy Award winning actress Sophia Loren suggests, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Larry Minnix retired after many years in mental health and aging care professions. In his recently published book, “Hallowed Ground- Stories of Successful Aging,” he offers twelve secrets to aging well. One of the secrets is to “cultivate an attitude of perseverance.” He says that as you age you can adopt one of three attitudes. One approach to life is to see yourself as a Victim focusing on disease, decline, and dependency. A second possibility is to be a Denier and surround yourself with artificial trappings and practice avoidance. The best alternative suggested by Minnix is one of perseverance where one accepts aging and adaptations needed to make the most of it. Mitch Albom, author of Tuesdays with Morrie, agrees with Dr. Minnix and counsels us to simply “embrace aging.”

Hallowed Ground: Stories of Successful Aging

Job is a wealthy man in the Bible who is said to be “blameless” and “upright,” always careful to avoid doing evil.  Nevertheless he suffers incredibly horrible circumstances. Three of his friends come to visit him. After several days with him they share their thoughts on his afflictions in long, poetic statements. After one of them has given his take on things, Job replies, “As you say, older men like me are wise. They understand. But true wisdom and power are God’s. He alone knows what we should do; He understands” (Job 12:12-13)

I agree with those who encourage us to live life fully (at all ages) and recognize with Job that following God’s guidance in those years is the key to a life of fulfillment and contentment.

Jamie Jenkins

Nicholas D. Kristof writes for the New York Times. In an article entitled “Media should try to fight, not spread, fear and lies,” he had an interesting observation about fake news and biased reporting.

Often information is passed on by the media and everyday people without verifying its truthfulness. Fact checking can be time consuming and tedious but Kristof adds an interesting angle on the way we process information.

According to this journalist, social psychology experiments have found that when people are presented with factual corrections that contradict their beliefs, they may cling to mistaken beliefs more strongly than ever. This is called the “backfire effect.” I had never heard this term before so I decided to check it out.

In 2006, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler at The University of Michigan and Georgia State University created fake newspaper articles about polarizing political issues. The articles were written in a way which would confirm a widespread misconception about certain ideas in American politics. As soon as a person read a fake article, researchers then handed over a true article which corrected the first.

They repeated the experiment with several “hot button” issues like stem cell research and tax reform. Again they found corrections tended to increase the strength of the participants’ misconceptions. This was consistent even when people on opposing sides of the issue read the same articles and then the same corrections. When new evidence was interpreted as threatening to their beliefs, the corrections backfired. Instead of changing what people believed, their beliefs were strengthened.

This is nothing new. Hundreds of years ago Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects, in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusion may remain inviolate.”

Psychologist Thomas Gilovich, Professor of Psychology at Cornell University concludes, “When examining evidence relevant to a given belief, people are inclined to see what they expect to see, and conclude what they expect to conclude.”

I do not intend to suggest that a person should be open to just anything. I am not suggesting that we discard our understanding or position on any issue. I believe there are some absolutes in life. All things are not negotiable. Strong convictions and firm beliefs are desirable but we need to be open to the possibility that there is a different perspective that we have not yet seen. We could be mistaken. Our opinions (beliefs) might be subject to correction. There could be more than one way to look at a particular topic.  

God, help us to be open to truth!

Jamie Jenkins

Dan Fogelberg was a successful singer/songwriter with a string of platinum-selling albums and singles in the 1970s, the early ’80s, and a long career afterward. His debut album, “Home Free,” was recorded in Nashville, in 1972.

This gifted man was born into a musical family in Peoria, IL, where his father was an established musician, teacher, and bandleader. Unlike many boys his age, he was more interested in music than sports. His first instrument was the piano. His personal musical turning point came in the early ’60s, before he’d reached his teens. A gift of an old Hawaiian guitar from his grandfather introduced him to the instrument that would soon replace the piano.

One song for which Fogelberg is best remembered is The Leader of the Band from his album The Innocent Age, released in 1981. It was written as a tribute to his father who was still alive at the time of its release. His father died one year later but not before this hit song made him a celebrity with numerous media interviews interested in him as its inspiration.

The Leader of the Band is one of Fogelberg’s most personal songs. One biographer said “it expressed something that many children have trouble articulating: a love for their father. The intimacy of the song actually broadened its appeal and it became one of his most enduring songs.”

One line in the song, “Thank you for the freedom when it came my time go,” refers to the time Dan decided to drop out of college in the middle of a semester to pursue music. Although his father was disappointed, he supported his son’s decision and told him to try it for a year.

The song’s lyrics described Fogelberg’s father in the following manner:

A quiet man of music denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once, but his music wouldn’t wait
He earned his love through discipline, a thundering velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand

The songwriter then goes on to say:
The leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band

The Leader of the Band is a memorable song that stands on its own merits. It is not a “Christian song” but it contains a reminder for Christians of our role in the world and who we are supposed to be. Jesus said that He came to show us what our Heavenly Father was like. He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:7-10). And he added, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Our calling is to be the “living legacy of the Leader of the Band.”

God help us to fulfill our calling.

Jamie Jenkins