Archives for posts with tag: freedom

In my quieter moments I realize how blessed I am. When I think about it I marvel at the richness of my life. Each year has grown better than the last.

On this National Day of Thanksgiving there are more things to be thankful for than I can begin to imagine but below are a few.

I AM THANKFUL FOR…

A warm and dry place to sleep at night.

A safe neighborhood.

Good friends.

My good wife of 50 years (come December 28).

My three wonderful children and their equally wonderful spouses.

My two exceptional grandchildren.

The call of God on my life and God’s willingness to let me serve in the Church.

The opportunity to learn from my mistakes.

The privilege and freedom to vote.

People who allow me to disagree with them without demonizing me.

Teachers.

Clean water.

Retirement.

Good health.

Freedom of religion.

A good sermon- and I hear one every Sunday at my church.

A good church choir- and I hear one every Sunday at my church.

The opportunity to travel and experience this great big wonderful world.

The amazing advances in modern medicine.

Music that entertains, inspires, and instructs.

Technology- when it works.

A reliable automobile that gets me where I want to go.

Folks who do what they say they will do when they say they will do it.

People who say “You’re welcome” instead of “No problem” when I say “Thank you.”

Ice cream.

A winning season for the Braves and Atlanta United.

Coffee in the morning.

Volunteers who serve with no expectation of reward.

The forgiveness of my sins and the grace of God to keep on forgiving.

The following Prayer of Thanksgiving was offered during last Sunday’s worship service. I share it with you today.

Gracious God, creator of all things, you have given us much to be thankful for: this place of worship, the blessings of this day, the world around us.

Apart from you we can do nothing. With you we can do everything. By the power of your Holy Spirit we live and serve you at home, at work, and at play.

We remember how much we have, in the face of a world that says we need more. We are reminded of your graciousness as we see those who go without. Yet in the face of little, you give us much.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Give us the courage and the strength to put our hands to plow your fields. As we do, help us to remember the laborers who first shared with us the Good News.

As we prepare to gather with family to give thanks and feast upon the blessing s of a day set apart for rest, Bread of Heaven, Water of Life, fill us until we want for nothing. Pour out yourself for us. Let us take, eat, and see that the Lord is good.

With grateful hearts we give thanks. Amen.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

I drive the streets and highways around Atlanta with hardly a thought about being feet- sometime inches- away from several thousand pound vehicles traveling at a very high speed. Even when I walk on the sidewalks near my home I am virtually oblivious to the fact that automobiles are flying past without notice. The slightest turn of the steering wheel or a momentary distraction could be deadly. Without even thinking about it I am trusting my life to unknown people. Is this faith or insanity?

Hundreds of years ago men and women, along with their families, braved the dangerous open seas making their way to the New World. Many of them were seeking freedom from oppression or poverty. They believed America would offer them the opportunity for a better life. Many modern day migrants follow a similar path. What motivated them to pursue such a remote possibility? Was it faith or insanity?

Westward Expansion in “the 19th Century offered people (of the United States) the opportunity to find new homes and work, to experience adventure, to explore possibilities, to become rich, to find gold or silver, to escape from the constraints of civilization and to make a new start. Americans were motivated to move west for a whole variety of practical reasons (and) they were inspired by the belief that the Manifest Destiny of the United States was God’s will (*).”

Was it faith or insanity?

In ancient times Moses accepted the task of leading millions of Israelites from the captivity in Egypt. They had minimal resources and the journey presented monumental challenges. The early followers of Jesus were persecuted beyond our understanding but they remained true to the beliefs and bravely spread the Good News. Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley and countless other were passionate in their efforts for religious renewal. What motivated these people? Was it faith or insanity?

Faith or insanity? Sometimes they seem so similar. One writer said that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1 KJV). One translation puts it this way: “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Some would say that faith is just a synonym for blind optimism, naivete, or wishful thinking. 

One definition of insanity is “something utterly foolish or unreasonable.” Another dictionary defines insanity as “extreme foolishness; folly; senselessness; foolhardiness.” For some people those terms also describe faith.

An individual once told me that I was a “realistic optimist.” I am not sure what that means but if it suggests that I acknowledge what is but believe that it can be better, then I agree. That is an appropriate description of who I am. And that is a good definition of faith. I believe that faith requires you to see things as they are. Sometimes you have to recognize that “it is what it is.” Denial of reality is really insanity. Faith faces unpleasant and difficult circumstances and situations as they are but believes and works to make them better.

If people act boldly because of their faith, they will often be called crazy. But there are a lot of behaviors and thought patterns that can legitimately earn you that label. So, why not live by faith and not by sight?

Jamie jenkins

* http://www.american-historama.org/1841-1850-westward-expansion/westward-expansion.htm

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 9

Today is the fourth Thursday in November. That means it is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared in one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For the next two centuries days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states.

In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that a national Thanksgiving Day be held on the final Thursday in November. Thanksgiving Day was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. There was much opposition to Roosevelt’s plan, known as Franksgiving, and in 1941 the president signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

This past week I visited several people who are homebound or hospitalized. A common thread in all our conversations was thanksgiving. Repeatedly I heard expressions of gratitude and an acknowledgement that we are blessed beyond our imagination.

Thanksgiving 6

Like many others I will gather with family and friends for an abundant feast today. We will eat a lot and watch seemingly endless football games. All of this is important because it nurtures our relationships, but thanksgiving requires more than a passive attitude.

I am thankful for my family who love me and has always supported me. Therefore I do everything possible to provide whatever they need.

I am thankful for God who loves me unconditionally. Therefore I devote my time, energy, and talents to serve God’s people in the Church and throughout the world.

I am thankful for good health. Therefore I attempt to take advantage of opportunities to learn and explore.

Thanksgiving 7

I am thankful for the freedoms that I enjoy in this country. Therefore I will strive to protect and preserve them for everyone.

I am grateful for all my resources. Therefore I seek to use them not only for myself but for the benefit of humankind.

It would be impossible to list all the things for which I am thankful. There are so many and so many which I simply take for granted. If you are interested, you can take a look at a few of them in the postscript.

Last Sunday Rev. Bill Britt, Senior Minister at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, said “We don’t give God thanks for our circumstances. We give God thanks in our circumstances.” I think that is what the Apostle Paul meant when he said, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God for you.” All things that happen to us are not God’s will but God does desire us to always have an attitude of gratitude.

Thanksgiving 3

Author and publisher Fred De Witt Amburgh said, “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Thanksgiving is not self centered or passive. People with grateful hearts give. According to philanthropist W. Clement Stone, “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.”

Thanksgiving is, after all, a word of action. In other words, it is “thanks-living.”

Jamie Jenkins

Thanksgiving 1

P.S. Other things for which I am thankful:

A good cup of coffee in the morning

Grandchildren (and their parents)

Ice cream (especially on weekends)

A wife who love sports (and me)

A safe neighborhood

The internet (when it works)

Skype

A comfortable pair of shoes

Opportunities to travel and see the beauty of God’s earth and its people

An electric car that is fun to drive

Any automobile that gets me where I need to go

All the folks who volunteer in the church and other helping organizations

The Atlanta Braves (wait until next year)

People who give generously of their time, talent, and money for the benefit of others

The United Methodist Church that has nurtured me and my family

My wife’s love for flowers and the beauty of her garden

Music- everything from classical to blues

Story tellers

My children and grandchildren who roll their eyes at my corny jokes but love me any way

The comics and their creators- especially Get Fuzzy (Darby Conley), Overboard (Chip Dunham), Pearls Before Swine (Stephan Pastis)

People who are positive about life no matter the circumstances

A warm house and a comfortable bed at night

Good (clean) jokes

Gifted preachers who work at their craft and deliver meaningful and challenging sermons

Church choirs who work hard to learn their music and offer it in worship

The people of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church for embracing me and my wife

Rainy days and Mondays- and every day whatever the weather

My children’s spouses who love them and enrich our family

 

 

 

 

In light of the horror of this past week in Paris, there are many calls to fight fire with fire. An eye for an eye. It is easy to understand this attitude in its context. Certainly someone needs to be held accountable and there must be consequences for this senseless slaughter. A reasoned but firm response is necessary but knee jerk reactions often result in undesirable unintended consequences rather than  a solution to the problem.

The growing threat of ISIS must be confronted. We cannot ignore it but we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in our response.

In a recent Republican Presidential Candidate debate Sen. Marco Rubio was accused of being a “closet moderate.” This designation was not delivered as a compliment but a criticism. Perhaps the criticism was not about Rubio’s position but the fact that he has disguised or hidden his real feelings. If he has not been open and transparent, I suppose that is valid criticism.

We live in a time where militant, fanatical individuals and groups seem to get all the spotlight. Radicalism and extremism are on the rise and are dangerous. The voice of reason often gives in to those who would “bomb the ____ out of them.”

“The strength of democratic societies

relies on their capacity to know how

to stand firm against extremism while

respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism.”

(Tariq Ramadan)

Religious and political radicals represent only a fringe element but they cause much harm. I am not speaking only of Islamic radicals although there is reason to be alarmed about them. Extremists pose real danger whether they are white supremacists or fundamentalist Muslims. Devotees to any religion or political faction who advocate for destruction of those who are different from them are cause for alarm.

When I refer to “radicals” and extremists” I am not suggesting that strong commitment to a cause or belief system is a bad thing. However, when that commitment marginalizes, endangers, or destroys anyone, it is wrong.

Dwight Eisenhower

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

People who represent extreme perspectives can be helpful. The presence of strongly divergent opinions can cause us to begin to see and understand things that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. Mutual respect and civil discourse among people who disagree can lead to heighted awareness and constructive change. But hateful and derogatory language and actions cause pain and foster further division.

 “If we destroy human rights and rule of law

in the response to terrorism, they have won.”

-Joichi Ito

A “moderate” is one who stands between two extremes. Is that a bad thing? Dictionaries define “moderate” with the following terms: reasonable, sensible, restrained, fair, temperate, judicious. These seem to be attributes that would be viewed favorably by most decent people.

Clint Eastwood

“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position and that’s it.

It doesn’t take much thought.

And when you go far enough to the right

you meet the idiots coming around from the left.”

-Clint Eastwood

Things often appear to be “right or wrong” but many times the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. The person who is a centrist (moderate) sees the value of seemingly opposite opinions and attempts to effect a synthesis of perspectives that is more balanced. Perhaps everything is not “either/or.” Maybe a better position often is “both/and.”

Let us pray and work for peace as we strive to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and believe is the right of every human being.

Jamie Jenkins