Archives for posts with tag: hope

 

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

 

 

 

 

Winter weather prevailed when I left on February 2 for a trip to the Holy Land. The high that day was 42 degrees. Three weeks later I returned to see evidence that spring was just around the corner.

Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Bradford') in bloom.

All the way home from the airport I saw Bradford Pear trees with their bountiful and beautiful white blossoms. As I neared my house I saw a Redbud tree and a Japanese Magnolia tree in all their brilliance. When we arrived at our house the daffodils in our front yard greeted us.

Closeup photo of the beautiful Redbud blossoms

The words of the Hymn of Promise came to my mind. “In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be. Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” (full lyrics below).

Atlanta Braves 2018 spring training

After unpacking and getting a good night’s rest I checked in on the Braves Spring Training which began while I was away. I miss not being present in Florida as the team begins preparation for the regular season. It was good to hear about the promising young players like Ozzie Albies and Ron Acuna and the team leaders like Freddie Freeman and Julio Tehran.

One more, I know you can : Stock Photo

A couple of days after returning from my travels I got started back with physical therapy for my surgically repaired shoulder. Progress from a torn rotator cuff has been slow and painful but after a few weeks of therapy I can see progress in my range of motion and reduced discomfort.

The next day there were seven babies baptized during the worship service at my church, Peachtree Road United Methodist in Atlanta. We recalled that “Jesus gave a special place to the children.” We were reminded that “Through the Sacrament of Baptism we are initiated into Christ’s holy Church. We are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation and given new birth through water and the Spirit. All this is God’s gift, offered to us without price.”

The parents of the children being baptized all promised to “nurture these children in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life.”

The congregation vowed, “With God’s help we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that these children, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith and confirmed, and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”

PRUMC Habitat for Humanity Build

That same morning I heard of the church’s plan to build their 46th Habitat for Humanity Home because we believe that every person should have access to a decent, safe and affordable place to live. Also an announcement was made about The Great Day of Service, Saturday, March 24. This is our annual community volunteer day when all ages put their faith in action as they serve those in need across Atlanta. Each year during Lent, nearly 1,000 church members and friends take this Saturday to make helping others a priority. 

Great Day of Service 2017

We were also informed of the plan to help “Fill the Pantry for Buckhead Christian Ministries” as we work together to prevent hunger and homelessness for those facing life-changing events such as a job loss, a reduction in work hours or a medical problem.

This year’s Lenten Offering will be used to support the 16 agencies and ministries with whom our church partners in the Greater Atlanta area to make a difference in the lives of others. We were encouraged to give something up during this season and to give the money that we would have spent on what we are giving up to this offering.

I am grateful for these and other signs of hope!

Jamie Jenkins

HYMN OF PROMISE (words and music by Natalie A. Sleeth, 1986)

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

 

 

Unless you have been outside this solar system you know that Rev. Billy Graham died last week at the age of 99. His body was brought to Washington, D.C. to lie in state in the U.S Capitol Rotunda February 28-March 1(today).

According to the news media the tradition of lying in honor (in the case of private citizens) and lying in state (for members of the government) dates back to 1852. Since then, only 31 individuals, including 11 U.S. presidents, have been chosen to be honored in such a way. Billy Graham became the 34th overall, and only the fourth private citizen to receive this distinction.

Rev. Graham’s body lies in a simple pine plywood casket made by inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana. The casket has a wooden cross nailed on top.

There has been much written about one of the most influential spiritual voices for decades. So rather than add to all the verbiage I will let him speak for himself.*

ON SANCTIFICATION: “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion—it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

ON MONEY: “There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.”

ON COURAGE: “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spine of others are often stiffened.”

ON HARDSHIP: “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.”

ON COMFORT: “Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.”

ON COMMUNITY: “Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.”

ON JUDGING OTHERS: “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”

ON HONESTY: “Don’t ever hesitate to take to [God] whatever is on your heart. He already knows it anyway, but He doesn’t want you to bear its pain or celebrate its joy alone.”

ON JESUS: “Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives—as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy—something they obtain and then forget about until they die. What keeps you from being His disciple?”

ON BIBLE READING: “The very practice of reading [the Bible] will have a purifying effect upon your mind and heart. Let nothing take the place of this daily exercise.”

ON GOD’S LOVE: “Sin is the second most powerful force in the universe, for it sent Jesus to the cross. Only one force is greater—the love of God.”

ON EVANGELISM: “The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

ON SALVATION: “Salvation is an act of God. It is initiated by God, wrought by God, and sustained by God.”

ON HOPE: “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

Jamie Jenkins

https://relevantmagazine.com/god/14-billy-graham-quotes-helped-shape-american-christianity-update-new

Picture credits: Photos by Russ Busby

Billy Graham and Arnold Palmer in 1968- photo by Russ Busby

Proclaiming God’s Word, New York City, 1969 – photo by Russ Busby

Mr. Graham at his final Crusade in New York City, 2005 – photo by Russ Busby

 

 

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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

 

The Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person” but the word is often used in ways that has caused the real meaning to be lost. Rather than an expression of affection, the word is commonly used to indicate taste or enjoyment or as a synonym for lust and passion.

I love ice cream. I love my new car. I love the Atlanta Braves- even when they lose. I love spring time. I love to travel. These and other uses of the word love has diminished its significance.

Jesus said that love was the one undeniable characteristic of persons who would follow him. He said, “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:35, The Message)

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OK, so we are to love one another but what does that mean? What is “love?” An extensive definition is given in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth (I Corinthians 13). He presents a long list of the qualities and characteristics of love. He sets an extremely high bar when he says that love is more powerful than faith or hope.

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Among other things, I have come to understand that one significant characteristic of love is understanding acceptance. Understand and acceptance. A woman who had been caught in the act of adultery was brought before Jesus. Her accusers reminded him that their law called for her to be killed by stoning and they asked his opinion of what they should do with her.

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Jesus stooped down and began writing in the sand. When the accusers continued to press him for an answer, he said, “Let the one among you who has never sinned throw the first stone at her.” When they heard this, one by one they drifted away. When they had all gone, Jesus asked the woman, “Where are they all—did no one condemn you?” Then he said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go home and do not sin again.”

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Jesus understood the woman and accepted her as she was. That does not mean that he agreed with her actions or approved of her conduct. He loved her as she was even though he encouraged her to change her ways.

 

It is important to note that love and “like” are not the same. I had a college roommate who irritated me with his music and his insensitivity to others. His attitudes and actions made it difficult to like him. However, as I learned about the difficult circumstances of his life I understood him, accepted him as he was, and learned to love him.

Anais Nin, in A Literature Passion: Letters of Anais Nin and Henry Miller, said “What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.”

 

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I am grateful that God does not wait for me to be “acceptable” before He loves me. I am glad that God loves me not because of what I do or think but in spite of my thoughts, words, and deeds.

I pray that I will be able to love others like God loves me.

Jamie Jenkins

 

 

Recent events in the United States and across the globe could easily plunge one into depression.Suicide bombings, killing of police, military unrest, continued threat of ISIS and other terrorist organizations, violence of all sorts seem to be everywhere. It is not hard to see how discouragement and despair could easily reign.

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In the face of current conditions we must be diligent to guard our minds and spirits. The dark days of inhumanity compete with the light of everyday. If we give into the darkness, then evil wins.

This is not a time for a Pollyanna attitude. An unreasonably or illogically optimistic attitude is not the solution. However, as we face what seems to be our new reality we maintain a positive and hopeful perspective. The glass may be half-empty but at the same time it is also half-full.

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Optimism does not require one to deny reality no matter how harsh it may be. Unless one recognizes things as they are, at least momentarily, one cannot contribute effectively to finding the solutions to problems. Realistic optimism sees things as they really are and hopes, believes, and works to make them better.

Trouble in Mind is a blues song written by jazz pianist Richard M. Jones. The first known recording of the song was in 1924 by singer Thelma La Vizzo with Jones providing the piano accompaniment. Since then it has become a blues standard and has been recorded by many artists including Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Hot Tuna, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Texas Playboys, Dinah Washington, and Hank Williams, Jr.

There have been numerous renditions by a variety of musicians. In many versions, new lyrics are added. However, most usually include the opening verse:

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always
‘Cause I know the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday

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In spite of the positive expression of hope in the original first verse, Janis Joplin’s version in 1963 and Nina Simone’s 1965 rendition sounded a note of desperation and hopelessness. Recently I was listening to Atlanta resident Francine Reed singing and her version communicated hope in spite of the obvious troubles of life.

If you follow the news reports you can honestly conclude that the world is a dangerous place and fear can overcome you. There are too many stories to ignore the serious implications of the climate of culture in many places. However, all forms evil and violence cannot be allowed to triumph. There is something we can do about the harshness of hatred.

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In a world where unrest and turmoil are prevalent people of faith are called to be peacemakers. In an environment of hatred and prejudice we are called to love our neighbor and even our enemies. Even as darkness hangs over us much of the time we are called to be the light in the midst of darkness. When others look for and point out the worst in others we are called to see the best in everyone and to stand against the worst that is also present.

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I am not suggesting that we ignore or deny the difficulties that are all around but our attitude and action can and will make a difference. There is no doubt that trouble is all around but we can proclaim with certainty, “I’m blue but I won’t be blue always ‘cause the sun’s gonna shine in my back door someday.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

advent 10

The season of Advent began last Sunday. It is a season that the Church has dedicated to preparing for the celebration of Christmas. The difference between Advent and Christmas is a small but important one. It’s no surprise that right after Thanksgiving we want to ask, “When can we sing Christmas songs?” But the question we must ask is: Are you ready to receive the one and only that God is sending our way?

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Advent is a time to reflect and prepare for Christmas similarly to how Lent is in preparation for Easter. It is uncertain as to when exactly the celebration of Advent was introduced in the Christian church. It is believed that at some time in the fifth century it began as a six-week fast leading to Christmas. In the sixth century it was reduced to its current length of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas Day and the fasting was no longer observed.

Rev. Mark S. Roberts, a Presbyterian minister, reflected on Advent in the following manner: “In our secular American celebration of Christmas, the Christmas season (or holiday season, ugh) begins in the weeks prior to Christmas Day. Generally, this season starts in early December, though retailers have a bad habit of beginning Christmas in November (or even October)… So Advent overlaps with what is usually thought of in American culture as the Christmas season. But its beginning and ending are well defined, and its themes are quite a bit different from what is commonly associated with secular Christmas celebrations.”

Rev. Roberts goes on to say there are two primary reasons why Advent is important to him. He found “that observing Advent enriched my celebration of Christmas. Taking four weeks to focus on the hope of Christ’s coming made me much more joyful when I finally got to celebrate it. The more I got in touch with my need for a Savior, the more I rejoiced at the Savior’s birth.”

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In addition he found “in Advent a solution to the age-old problem of secular Christmas vs. spiritual Christmas… We (Christians) recognize that Christmas is, most of all, a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It’s a holiday that focuses on the meaning of the Incarnation. Yet, given the secular traditions of Christmas, we spend most of our time preparing, not for a celebration of the birth of Jesus, but for fulfilling the demands of the season.” Buying and wrapping presents, attending and hosting parties, traveling to visit relatives, sending out Christmas cards, and if you have younger children “spending hours trying to assemble gifts that come with sketchy instructions written by someone for whom English is, at best, a third language.”

The website, http://www.adventconspiracy.org, asks, “Can Christmas still change the world? The Christmas story is a story of love, hope, redemption and  relationship. So what happened? How did it turn into stuff, stress, and debt?” Then it suggests four ways to change the way we celebrate Christmas.

ADVENT 1

Worship Fully

It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

ADVENT 2Spend Less

Quick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. America spends around $600 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that it joyless and goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.ADVENT 3

Give More

I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t you just say I should spend less, and yet here you are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.

ADVENT 4

Love All

It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. … It’s not that there’s something wrong with the shopping mall—it’s that the better story is about loving all.

It is not enough to say no to the way Christmas is celebrated by many. We need to say yes to a different way of celebrating.

Jamie Jenkins

Atlanta Braves 1

It is finally over. A long and disappointing year for Atlanta Braves fans and  players ended last Sunday. It has been twenty-four years since they experienced a losing season- and this was a LOSING season.

At least it ended on an upbeat note. The Braves won four of the last five series with a 10-5 record after losing eight of the previous nine. Although they lost 95 games (out of 162) this year, it felt good to end the season winning all three games against St. Louis even if the Cardinals lineup was mostly backup players since they had clinched their division several days earlier.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

In the next to the last game of the season pitcher Shelby Miller finally won a game after 24 consecutive starts without a win. His record setting winless streak is not a reflection of his ability. The Braves have just not scored any runs to support him.

If you follow Major League Baseball, you know that this has been a “rebuilding” year for the Braves. The front office systematically dismantled last year’s team. At the end of the 2015 season last Sunday there were only 5 players on the team that were on last year’s 25-man roster: two pitchers, two infielders, and one catcher who spent much of this season in the minor league.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Jason Heyward, who was traded to St. Louis after last season, returned to Atlanta for the first time last week. He was glad to return to his home territory (he grew up in suburban McDonough) and the team he played with for his first five years in the major leagues, but it was not what you would normally think. He said it didn’t feel “homecomingish” since he didn’t know most of the Braves players. The local fans have felt that way all year long.

Braves fans mourn the sad state of the team and miss players who grew up around Atlanta like Heyward and Alex Wood (who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers), the best closing pitcher in baseball, Craig Kimbrel, and a long list of others from the 2014 team. But things worked out pretty well for about a dozen of them as they are now playing for teams that have advanced into the post-season play-offs while the Braves go home and wait until spring training next year.

I know that in the grand scheme of things winning or losing baseball games doesn’t rank very high. However, this season for Braves fans and players illustrate a very important life principle. All things will not be as you wished they were. You win some and you lose some. There are victories and defeats. Mountain tops and valleys. But life is not about “winning” or “losing.”  It is our response to these disparate experiences that determines success or failure.

Lynn Anderson

Country singer Lynn Anderson reminded us that “along with the sunshine there’s got to be a little rain sometime.” Another popular song written by Benjamin Weisman, Fred Karger, and Sid Wayne offers the following advice and encouragement:

When you walk through a storm hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm there’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone

Losing is not the end of the world. Whether it is a baseball game, a relationship, a job, a dream, our health, or anything else. We can “walk on with hope in our heart” because we do not walk alone. God has promised to be with us always to love, support, and guide us.

Jamie Jenkins