We are fast approaching a new and alternate abyss of American Exceptionalism, where any lie becomes acceptable, so long as it reinforces (or at least does not contradict) our fantasy of remaining at the top of the heap; where the underlying "except" is that everyone is uninvited except us and the people we've yet to fear or despise. We dare not look down at our feet or believe the screaming of our olfactory receptors. The pile on which we stand contains the rotting carcasses of all creation, consumed in the name of security and entertainment. Perhaps, most telling is the fantasy on which we're hell-bent; an altered reality – as we are wont to label it – in which everything is never enough and no one can be sufficiently vetted; an eerie vacuum of loneliness and trustlessness. We bow before the altar of consumption, offering a gift whose pricelessness is long-forgotten: our very selves. The (s)election of high priest for this cult is only with regard to appearance. No matter which choice we make, what happens on the judgment seat behind the curtain in this profanity of profanities will not change. Hope whispers her sacred plea, "Speak now or forever forego peace." "Lift every voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the list'ning skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won." (James Weldon Johnson) © 2016 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Gay Jenkins Kallschmidt
In the songs and conversations, as well as prayers and explanations, if what you hear is a list of those we should mistrust, instead of an invitation to hope ourselves farther down the road to community; if what you're invited to visualize is a people so other that you're no longer able to recognize our shared humanity, then you should keep your shoes and coat on and keep walking down the road a piece, until you find a table around which a narrative of grace is being shared; for this is the only meal that'll slake our inner thirst and satisfy our deepest hunger. © 2016 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins
When the curtain is pulled back, and our social, economic, and political choices are revealed in the light of day, I suspect we'll recognize the influence of a lot less grace and community than we'd hoped, and a lot more fear and separation than we'd imagined. Faith and the journey of spiritual formation require that we allow sacred questions to ask themselves throughout our relational reasoning and decision-making processes, which is very different from giving scared questions a platform or squeezing perceived reality into a tidy doctrinal box of our own choosing. © 2016 Todd Jenkins
Those who own the words
own the world.
With ownership comes responsibility.
Responsibility demands accountability.
Accountability requires relationship.
Relationship creates community.
Community offers the possibility of hope.
Hope is the word that owns us all.
From words to hope,
what goes around, comes around.
© 2016 Todd Jenkins
Voting booth curtain closes;
staring at me is a long list of names.
Most of them have associated faces,
many also have slogans and claims.
Over each bunch, there are titles;
once dignified, but now not so much,
and I’m supposed to pick
the best fruit for the future.
It’s been an ugly two years,
this protracted election cycle,
with more than enough
other-accusation to make even
the strongest stomachs queasy.
So much sleight-of-tongue
has been used,
attempting to convince me
that these people are my kin –
that we share political and economic,
if not physical DNA, and
our collective dissociation
from the rest is what matters.
But as rhetorical hate has risen,
and tempers with it,
something deep in my soul
tells me that divisiveness and
fear mongering are not the way.
There’s a calmer voice whispering
in between the jingoistic fireworks,
pulling us together,
instead of tearing us apart.
It maps a more grand
genetic strand that’s shared
by all; one of spiritual origins.
The whispered plea
I’ve heard over and
over again for years:
“If we don’t find ways
to keep ourselves
in this together,
we will find ourselves
out of it, apart.”
Before we reach
the DNR order, can we
map a course that holds
our social and cultural
double helix together?
Lord, have mercy!
© 2016 Todd Jenkins
"Holy, Holy, Holy!" is a declaration about divine character. Our song? Maybe it's more like, "Holey, Holey, Wholly!" We are tempted, by culture's competency and competition, to leave the holey parts of ourselves at home or locked in the trunk when we gather as a community of faith, thereby removing our shadowed selves from the redeeming power of confession, forgiveness, and grace. Rest assured, the only way to wholly become the beings for which we were created, is to bring all of our holey selves to the holy table. © 2016 Todd Jenkins
"I'm not really a dancer." I said. Something quaked at the center of my soul, "Yeah, this isn't really about what you think you're good at or what you believe makes you look good." "But, I don't have rhythm!" "You can breathe, can't you? In and out, with a tick-tocking flow, especially when you slow down and pay attention." "Well, yeah; there's that; but I'm more of a walker, or even a runner. I mostly want to make progress; to get where I'm going." "I've noticed that about you; and I think you might be missing out on something important." "And what might that be?" "Your life is lived as if arrival is your purpose, and as if you must find your way toward me. Life is really about journey; about paying attention to the people traveling with you and being present to and in each moment. One more thing: I am the dance." © 2016 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Hannah McCulloch
Here’s a throwback from June of 2013 that still seems quite relevant.
(Living the American Dream) I must have hit a triple, 'cause here I am on third. Of course I wasn't born here; that whole idea's absurd! Daddy is the umpire, mama cooks the books; but isn't that the way everybody's life looks? It's true what they say, "It's lonely at the top." When all your views are down, it's really hard to stop. I've got more stuff than friends; that doesn't really matter. It's hard to let your guard down when your wallet's getting fatter. One day I'm going to slow down and be that kind of guy people want to hang with; for now I'm kind of shy. I worry what they're thinking about the things I say, and whether they will judge me or try to take my pay. It's hard to feel normal when you're such a special guy. I do my best to fake it; I'm usually pretty sly. Tried ordinary once but then I got burned. No one would acknowledge the luxuries I'd earned. It's nice here on third; I'm such a go-getter. When I steal home, it'll be even better! © 2013 Todd Jenkins
In a culture lacking deepened faith, love is merely quid pro quo, with every transaction measured and recorded. This is the world of anxiety, fear, and scarcity; a confused world, thirsty for intimacy without shame, and hungry to know and be known without judgment. Only when we learn how to sit still and silent with ourselves, will we be able to recognize the rhythmic beat of unconditional love and the abundant pool of grace in which we float. Give us courage, O Lord, to set aside all infatuation built on "because" and let the richness of mercy grounded in "even though" be our daily companion. © 2016 Todd Jenkins