Archives for the month of: February, 2019

He was sitting in his car outside a CVS waiting for his wife who was inside shopping. He was a successful and generous businessman. He was not in a “bad” neighborhood. He was not involved in any questionable activity. Just waiting for his wife to finish shopping. Then someone shot him and killed him.

A 7 year-old girl was riding in a car driven by her mother. She was still in her pajamas along with her three sisters on a quick run to get coffee on Sunday morning. They were stopped at a red light near a Walmart and someone pulled up next to their car, started shooting and Jazmine Barnes was killed. Just days before the second grader was in the holiday program at her school. Officials say it was a case of mistaken identity.

Several young adults sat around a bonfire together on a cool fall evening. Later that night two of them came back and killed four of the people in the house. They had done nothing to provoke or anger anyone. It seems that the two just came back “to rob and kill.”

After a house fire, a 67 year-old man and a 65 year-old woman were found dead in their home. Fire officials said that the fire was intentionally set. It was later determinded that the married couple had been strangled. Their son has been arrested and charged with murdering his parents.

It’s a normal day at school and then a nightmare. A crowd is enjoying a night of musical entertainment and then shots from a hotel room high above the venue and dozens die. A young man is on his way home from a Braves game when someone cuts him off on the freeway. The two drivers argue as they continue to drive. This encounter ends when one of the men shoots and kills the other. A young girl is in her bed at night when someone kills her parents and kidnaps her.

These are just a few examples of daily occurrences in communities and neighborhoods all across America. What has happened to the value of a human life?

Former President Bill Clinton said, “…each bloodletting hastens the next, and as the value of human life is degraded and violence becomes tolerated, the unimaginable becomes more conceivable.” Have we come to the place in our society where we have come to expect that which was once unimaginable? Has the worth of a person become so small that we see others as dispensable?

Abhijit Naskar is one of the world’s celebrated neuroscientists, an international bestselling author and untiring advocate of mental wellness and global harmony. He suggests that “Human progress isn’t measured by industry, it’s measured by the value you put on a life.” If that is the case, we have not progressed very far.

Rabbi Yanki Tauber says that unless this “trend is halted and reversed…before long, we will be deep in the barbaric woods where everything is relative, where the right to life is entirely relative to power, wealth and physical strength. For unless life has absolute value, it ultimately has no value. And unless we accord absolute moral significance to our actions, they are ultimately of no moral significance, and before long, we’re deep in the jungle.”

The Apostle Paul affirms that God “gives to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). It is thus clear that Scripture regards life as a gift from Heaven. If human life is a gift from God, then it is a sacred essence, and no person has the arbitrary right to take it from another or to destroy it within himself.

God help us to value life as a divine gift and end this move toward absolute destruction.

Jamie Jenkins

 

“United we stand, divided we fall” is a phrase that is well known and has been widely used to inspire unity. Wikipedia says, “Its core concept lies in the …notion that as individual members of a certain group with binding ideals… work on their own instead of as a team, they are each doomed to fail and will all be defeated.”

One of our Founding Fathers, John Dickinson (1732–1808), wrote the lyrics to “The Liberty Song” in 1768. In the song he wrote: “Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!” Patrick Henry used the phrase in his last public speech in which he denounced efforts to advance states’ rights.

In his unsuccessful campaign for the United States Senate, Abraham Lincoln gave one of his best-known speeches. In his debates with Stephen Douglas he said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.”

Many popular songs have used the theme “United we stand, divided we fall.” The Brotherhood of Man, Sonny and Cher, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Tupak Shakur, and many others have asserted that belief.

This phrase has been attributed to the ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop. One of Aesop’s Greek fables tells of four oxen who lived in the forest. They were very good friends and always went together to graze in the fields. However, every time they went, a hungry lion tried to attack them. The lion longed for their meat but they withstood his attack by fighting him as a team. They attacked him with their horns and the lion fled to another forest. One day, the four oxen fought among themselves. They started going to the forest separately.

When the lion returned, he saw that the group was divided and he planned to take advantage of this situation. Finding the first ox grazing in the fields alone, he crept from behind and ate him up. The next day, he attacked the second ox and killed it. This way he killed the third and the fourth ox too. Had the four oxen stayed together, they wouldn’t have lost their lives.

A similar phrase also appears in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Jesus declares that unity within oneself is essential as he proclaims, “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25, Matthew 12:25, Luke 11:17). Surely what is true of the individual is true of any corporate entity.

The makeup of a human being is incredibly complex. There are several main systems that make up the human body and each has a different function. The cardiovascular, digestive, and nervous systems are not identical but when they, and other systems, work in unity a healthy individual is the result. Jesus is not suggesting a simplistic thought. But unity is essential for the health of the body, nation, church, family, and society in general.

Lord, unite our hearts, minds, and spirits so that we can stand together.

Jamie Jenkins

* This was originally written for a devotional booklet (Prayers, Politics, and Peace) for the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Monday, November 14, 2016.

 

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is a day when candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones.

One source, attributed to the Greeting Card Association, estimates that 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)

The origin of this holiday and its theme of romance is not clear and there is much mystery about its patron saint St. Valentine. Theories include aspects of early Christianity, ancient Roman tradition, and customs of Victorian England.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death. (https://www.history.com)

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured.

According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. By the Middle Ages Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

It has also been suggested that in the 5th century when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s feast day it was an effort of the Church to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia which was celebrated on February 15. Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture, and to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

It was not until the Middle Ages that Valentine’s Day became definitively associated with love. In those days it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.

Although Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, written Valentines didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today is believed to be a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Whatever the origin of Valentine’s Day and no matter what customs or traditions are followed, it is a good thing to focus on the most powerful force in the universe. Reeva Steenkamp said, “I’ve realized that although Valentine’s Day can be a cheesy money-making stint to most people, it’s a day of expressing love across the world. It doesn’t have to only be between lovers, but by telling a friend that you care, or even an old person that they are still appreciated.”

So on this Valentine’s Day “let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God.” (I John 4:7 CEB)

Jamie Jenkins

I am a proud man.

Depending on how you interpret the statement above I am either a very fortunate human being or an arrogant individual.

The Bible cautions that “pride comes before disaster and arrogance before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 CEB). One source defines pride as “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” This definition allows for pride to be a positive or negative emotion, depending on what prompts the feeling. It can be self-centered or other oriented.

Wikipedia describes pride as “an inwardly directed emotion that carries two common meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to an inflated sense of one’s personal status or accomplishments… With a positive connotation, pride refers to a satisfied sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, or a fulfilled feeling of belonging.”

Merriam Webster defines pride as “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people, a feeling that you are more important or better than other people, or a feeling of happiness that you get when you or someone you know does something good, difficult, etc.”

According to John Maxwell, author of many books on leadership, “There are two kinds of pride, both good and bad. ‘Good pride’ represents our dignity and self-respect. ‘Bad pride’ is the deadly sin of superiority that reeks of conceit and arrogance.” Christian author and speaker, Joyce Meyer, says “Pride is an independent, me-oriented spirit. It makes people arrogant, rude and hard to get along with.”

In other words, pride can be viewed as a virtue or a vice.

Ernest Hemingway believed, “All a (person) has is pride. Sometimes you have it so much it is a sin. We have all done things for pride that we knew were impossible. We didn’t care. But a (person) must implement his pride with intelligence and care.”

With all that said, I am a proud man. It is up to you how you understand that.

I am proud of my family- my wife, three adult children, their spouses, and two grandchildren. I am proud of my country. I am proud to be a Christian. I am proud to be a United Methodist clergy person (retired).

I hope I am not “puffed up with pride,” arrogant, or obnoxious. I don’t think I am blind to imperfections. I, and all of the above mentioned of which I am proud, are not always right. I (we) are not necessarily better than any other. We are different, but not superior.

I am proud of who we are and pray that God will continue to mold and shape us until we become all that God intended for us to be.

Jamie Jenkins

*This was first posted on Thoughts For Thursday on July 9, 2015.