Archives for posts with tag: justice

Body, mind, soul, spirit in old wood type

We tend to think of our bodies and minds as separate systems that function, for the most part, independently. Yet instinctively we know that is not the whole story. The way we think affects how we feel. If we think we are in danger, our body tends to experience stress, our hearts beat faster, and our palms get sweaty. If we think others love and appreciate us, our body responds with positive feelings.

The mind-body relationship has been a topic of conversation and research for centuries.  Scientists and philosophers have debated and attempted to explain mind-body interaction but there is disagreement about whether there is a rigid distinction between the mind and the body or are they uniquely unified.

Image of Human Skeleton Human Skeleton Front En Svg Diagram of

‘Wikipedia states that most modern philosophers maintain in their different ways that the mind is not something separate from the body. According to one academic journal, “The problem of the relationship between the mind and the body, is one that has always fascinated humanity across all cultures and in all times.” The next two sentences of explanation in that journal contain 104 words, 571 character and takes 10 lines of space. Two sentences- and the wording left me completely befuddled.

Researchers are continually finding evidence that the brain has a distinct power to manipulate the body’s physiology.  I cannot fully understand the debate but it appears to me they are much more entwined than we might assume. Thought processes and physical responses appear to be interrelated but I cannot offer a scientific or philosophical explanation.

Brain

Robert Jones is not a scientist or philosopher. He runs 3 successful martial arts schools, He says, “The mind is the master of the body. If we train and discipline our minds, the body will follow. Once the body and mind become focused and in tune, you will see that your whole life will seem to flow; like you are in the zone.”

 

Recently I heard an athlete talking about his conditioning routine. His belief was that if you train the brain the body would follow. He talked about both mental and physical exercises and suggested that the brain (mind) determined what the body could/would do.

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind

Ernest Holmes, author of The Science of Mind says, “Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it.” If he is correct, then how we think is very important. What our minds focus on will determine our character and our actions. Perhaps that is what the Apostle Paul knew when he gave this advice: “Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8 Common English Version).

Philippians 4:8 Inspirational Image

Jamie Jenkins

O Lord, we praise you because you are a great and mighty God. We praise you because you are a tender and compassionate God. We praise you because you are an all knowing and wise God. We praise you because you are a God of grace and mercy.

In recent days we have witnessed the unthinkable in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad, Dhaka, Dallas, Orlando, Minneapolis….

Every day seems to bring a new disaster. Every day people are killed because of their religion, race, gender, lifestyle, or money. Every day children lose their innocence and often their lives. Every day people die because someone chooses to drive under the influence. Life seems to have little value to so many.

With the psalmist (Ps. 13) we ask, “O Lord, how long?” How long will our enemies cause unthinkable pain and suffering? How long will injustice prevail? How long will greed and hatred wreak havoc in our world?

With the prophet Habakkuk (Hab. 1) we know, “There is strife, and conflict abounds… (It seems that your) instruction is ineffective. Justice does not endure because the wicked surround (us) … (and) Justice becomes warped.”

Lord, we confess this morning that it is easy to get discouraged and become despondent because of the evil that seems to be everywhere. But we “trust in your unfailing love; our hearts rejoice in your salvation” (Ps. 13:5).

Our hearts are broken and our spirits are sad because we have experienced the “sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, (that) threaten the soul with infinite loss.” But with the hymn writer, we declare that your grace is greater than anything. In the face of so much pain and sorrow, so much grief and fear, we claim that “marvelous, infinite, matchless grace” to cover us and our world in these difficult days. Our hope is in You, O Lord.

We pray for the victims of violence and injustice everywhere. We pray for those who are responsible for such heinous crimes. We pray for our world and all people that you created.

We pray not as a ritual without meaning but we believe that authentic prayer prompts action. It affects behavior. So, Lord, help us not to conform to the pattern of this world, but transform us by the renewing of our minds. Help us to think right so we can act right. Bring out the best in us. Guard us from becoming so well-adjusted to our culture that we fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix our attention on you, O Lord. Change us from the inside out so that our lives will be pleasing to you. Deep within our hearts we really do want to be like Jesus and we want our lives to reflect Him.

Hear our prayer, O Lord, for we offer it and ourselves in the name of Jesus. Amen.

*This is the Pastoral Prayer that I offered today (July 17, 2016) at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, Atlanta, Georgia

Jimmy Carter

For nearly 50 years Law Day was one of the traditions of the University of Georgia. Randall Balmer, journalist for the Hartford Courant, described it as “an occasion to honor student achievements as well as to invite distinguished guests, ranging from Supreme Court justices and attorneys general to cabinet members and politicians of national stature.”  The last Law Day was on March 31, 2000.

The featured speaker of Law Day in 1974 was Edward M. Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts. A couple of hours after Kennedy’s keynote address, Jimmy Carter, the governor of  Georgia, addressed the group. His lecture on justice upstaged Sen. Kennedy who at that time was considered the front-runner for the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination

Carter attributed his sense of justice to two main sources, Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan. He said it was Dylan’s song, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More,” that led him to begin to focus on the needs of ordinary people like the tenant farmers he had known in south Georgia.

Bob Dylan

Carter lamented that “the powerful and the influential in our society shape the laws and have a great influence on the legislature or the Congress.” He criticized their “commitment to the status quo” that preserves the “privileged position in society.” He concluded his remarks by saying that “the course of human events, even the greatest historical events, are not determined by the leaders of a nation or a state, like Presidents or governors or senators. They are controlled by the combined wisdom and courage and commitment and discernment and unselfishness and compassion and love and idealism of the common ordinary people.”

God has always demonstrated a concern for ordinary people. Jesus announced his calling was to “preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners,  recovery of sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed…”

God has often chosen ordinary people to carry on the work of redemption and reconciliation in the world. Just look at the people He chose to be his closest associates. Ordinary people.

Advent 12

Last Sunday was the Second Sunday of Advent. The lectionary scripture was the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38). Ave Maria is the musical setting of the Latin text which was originally published in 1853.

Mary was young in a world where age was venerated. She was poor in a world that belonged to the rich. She was a woman in a world where gender equity was not even an afterthought. In every sense she was an ordinary individual. But Gabriel said, “You are highly favored. The Lord is with you.”

We see ordinary people throughout the Advent Season as we prepare to celebrate the birthday of our Savior. John  the Baptist came as a “voice in the wilderness” calling for people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Eugene Peterson’s The Message says, “His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings.”

Shepherd

As we come nearer to Christmas Day we meet an anonymous inn keeper who provided a place away from the chaos of the moment for Mary to give birth to Jesus. Then we encounter the shepherds. As they “watched their flocks by night” God revealed to them that a child born in their nearby town was the Savior of the world, the Messiah. These ordinary people were perhaps the first to see the Christ Child.

Poh Fang Chia, writing in Our Daily Bread said, “Today, God is still calling ordinary people to do His work and assuring us that He will be with us as we do. Because we are ordinary people being used by God, it’s obvious that the power comes from God and not from us.” The devotional for July 8, 2015 ends with a prayer that is appropriate as we make our way through Advent. “Lord, I am just an ordinary person, but You are an all-powerful God. I want to serve You. Please show me how and give me the strength.”

Jamie Jenkins

 

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

 

I received an email with the subject: “First and Final Notice.” It seemed both ominous and inconsiderate. Why would you notify me of something only one time? If I needed to take some action, should I not be allowed more than one chance? At least you would think I could have the opportunity to discuss the matter if I disagreed with the sending party.

Last chance 1

I thought, “Hey, cut me some slack.” If I need to do something, I will do it but don’t slam the door on me if additional communication would be helpful.

“First and Final Notice” is woefully lacking in “grace” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “a controlled, polite, and pleasant way of behaving.” Kindness. Common courtesy.

Philosophically and theologically speaking, grace is getting what you don’t deserve. It is unlike justice (getting what you deserve) which we often expect for others or mercy (not getting what you deserve) which seems to be the “right” thing for us. Maybe I should not have expected leniency (grace) but the ultimatum seemed like harsh justice.

Grace 1

Maybe I am just like the child whose parent is constantly saying, “I am not going to tell you again.” After hearing that false promise so many times, I begin to expect to be given another chance. No second chance seems so unreasonable. Unfair.

Last chance 2

I understand that sometimes an ultimatum is necessary. However, an ultimatum is generally the final demand in a series of requests. Quite the opposite of “first and final notice.”

I wonder how often I communicate “first and final” by my attitude. Unbending. Absolute. No other options. Not open to discussion. I hope my demeanor is very much in contrast to that closed-minded and harsh approach.

I am not suggesting that anything goes. I do not believe that everything is negotiable. There are principles upon which my life is based. There are some absolutes. There are some things that are “right” and “wrong” but I have learned that things are not “black or white” as often as I once thought they were.

Grace 7

Although there are instances when we need to stand our ground, the world would be a better place if “grace” were offered more often. I think that is how God relates to us. We are accountable for our attitudes and actions but God offers forgiveness and reconciliation generously. We would do well to do likewise.

Jamie Jenkins

Andrew Young 3

Andrew Young, Jr. apologized to the crowd for sitting while he spoke. He said sitting would help his 83 year old knees as he talked to the folks gathered at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Andy (as he likes to be called) Young was one of the closest friends and co-workers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and gave leadership to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Andrew Young 2

Someone said, “At some point civil rights activists have to come in off the streets and get involved in politics.” And that is what he did when he was elected to the U.S. House of representatives in 1972 becoming the first African American to represent Georgia in Congress since Reconstruction. Later President Jimmy Carter named him as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and after leaving that post he was elected Mayor of Atlanta in 1981.

Before his political career Young was a pastor. After graduating from Hartford Theological Seminary he was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ in 1955. That calling was very apparent when he used the words of the biblical prophet Micah as he spoke to the folks in church last Sunday. “What does God require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Andrew Young 6

The crowd gathered in the Peachtree Road United Methodist sanctuary heard stories from Young’s childhood in New Orleans and how his father taught him about honesty and respect. Reflecting on his time as ambassador he told a story about a meal of cornbread, field peas, corn on the cob, and fried chicken prepared by his mother-in-law from Alabama in the kitchen of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York  for the Chinese delegation to the U.N. . This was an example of his belief that “breaking bread together” helps to transcend our differences.

As a youngster, Andrew Young, Jr. was an athlete. Once on a trip with his parents to North Carolina he ran to the top of Kings Mountain. As he stood at the top of that mountain and viewed the surrounding beauty, he said he became aware of God’s presence in a very special way. When he came down from the mountain he had a definite sense that God had a purpose for his life. He did not understand what it was but from that day onward he tried to be faithful every day to God.

I don’t believe that everyone who follows God’s will and purpose for their life will have such extraordinary experiences as Andrew Young. But I am convinced that if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing today, we will be where God wants us to be whenever God has something else for us. And that is the exciting way of faith!

Lord, help us to faithfully follow You in all our ways every day!

Jamie Jenkins