We pray, O God, for all those who enter the holiday season with a sense of overwhelming sadness: those whose sadness is brought on by heightened grief of the loss of a loved one; those who are sad because the holidays bring acute awareness of family or relational dysfunction or discord; those whose sadness comes from an inability to create the Norman Rockwell life that marketers and advertisers use to create a restless desire to purchase; those whose emotions are overcome by the incongruence of life in the first eleven months of the year, or the painful difference between the “haves” and the “have nots”; and those whose sadness comes from any other reason. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to be keenly aware and ready to open our ears and our hearts to those who are anything but happy for the holidays, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their homes and their lives: those whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or other disaster; those whose neighborhoods and lives have been turned to rubble by monster machinery of war. Help us, as your children, to have the grace to offer who we are and what we have been given to alleviate their suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with worries about health and wellness, for themselves or someone near and dear: those whose holiday appetites will be diminished by chemotherapy; those whose holiday schedules will be filled with radiation, physical therapy, or booked for surgery; those whose glasses will be raised, not to toast, but to chase down handfulls of pills which they hope will extend the quality and/or quantity of their days. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to support, by your grace, all efforts at health and healing, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
We pray, O God, for all those who are leaders, in our congregation, our community, our state, our nation, and in the world: those who make decisions about the direction of our congregation’s ministry and mission; those who direct funding, support, programs and protection for this city, this county, this state, this nation, and for all nations. Give us the courage to demand and support leaders who are willing to risk and sacrifice as much for peace and justice as we ask our military to risk and sacrifice in support of war; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..
In the midst of this Advent season, O Lord, give us unfailing hope through your unimaginable promise; give us unquenchable joy through your gift of deliverance; through Jesus Christ our Lord….
Now hear us, O God, as we join our hearts and voices together to pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, as we pray together….. Our father……
© 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Owen Jenkins
“Thoughts and prayers” screech in my ears like fingernails across a chalkboard, regurgitate into my throat like the most heinous of tastes come back to haunt me, a platitudinous chaff of phraseology. In the motionless void that follows, my eardrums are pierced by the echo of gunfire; another mass shooting, further propelling the land of the free to an insurmountable lead in the gold medal chase for death by firearms. We cry “terror!” when we see difference, and “mental illness!” or “lone wolf” when familiarity surfaces, all the while doubling down on weaponization, as if terminal violence were the antidote to rage. Is there a tipping point where the right to die of some other cause rises to the level of the right to bear arms? Or should we bury hope next to the latest bullet-riddled victims, shrugging our shoulders in surrender as the second amendment rises to the throne of supreme deity? Lord, have mercy, because we have completely lost the capacity to birth it ourselves! © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Yesterday's festive sun-gazers give little indication of their recent glory, as stooped and tired looking as octogenarian day laborers deprived of their pension. We are all little more than raisins in the sun, as Mr. Hughes reminded us, subject to so much pressure from within, without; fragile dreams escaping into the night, or not, whose purpose and connection are surely, purely gift, unless and until the bubble’s burst by hate unleashed, and fear cursed. Dream on; dream until your dreams come true. Shine, smile, stretch, reach, as long as you’re rooted in the garden of life, if for no other reason than someone else needs to see you hope out loud. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Hate rallies beneath its banners of battles lost to hope and humanity, frantically waving its flags, furiously stoking fires of division, refusing to let go, doggedly extending the war, unable to surrender to grace. Together, we must all keep marching toward a narrative that brings us to a place of peace that passes understanding. Until we arrive at such a sacred respite, the fighting will be interminable. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
For a while you shared a lifetime; though it seems but a flash; and never enough; and always too soon; and too painful to bear. All of these are true. May your memories, and Keats and Oliver and all the poets whose pens were filled with the ink of their own painfully dripping blood, and the DNA shared with your kin — physical genes as well as spiritual ones — and the people who’ve been and are your neighbors through the years, all weave a comforting blanket of presence to brace your tired shoulders against the biting cold wind of the valley of the shadow of death. May you take one step at a time, one day at a time; and on the days when you can neither stand nor step, may you find sleep, if not dreams, beneath a warm quilt of hope. May there come a day when the light pushes the shadows back into the deep woods from whence you’ve journeyed for much longer than you dreamed possible. May you recognize home, once again; and may your breath be restored. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Randy Calvo
For the hearty souls, O God, who find the Depot Home away from home, and yet in no way home, we give you thanks and pray. For those who understand Matthew 20 far better than they wished, who line-up like cattle in the chute, or slaves on the block, striking a paradoxical pose of desperation and indifference, hoping against hope to find a generous master for a day, we offer prayer, knowing that it is but the beginning. Let us be emboldened, by the words and fire of our supplications, O Lord of labor, so we may recognize them as neighbors, aflame enough to challenge the systemic injustice driving their daily auction. Let us be courageous enough to see their families, dependent on their labor, and to understand their work is also something on which we, ourselves, are dependent. Whether they live around the corner or across the border, give us courage to enact love in tangible and nourishing ways. Let us skip the 23andme, practicing the radical hospitality of our spiritual genetics with these kinfolk of ours. Let us open God's storehouse. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
When the slice comes, it matters not whether you heard it coming. You bleed; sometimes through your veins; other times through your soul, and maybe both. Either way, you’re searching for something to make the pain go away; something to turn back the clock to how it used to be – how you’d hoped it would remain – if not forever, at least for a while longer; a long while. Here’s what I want you to do: find a large bowl; the deepest one you have. Peer into the bowl. You're going to need a bigger bowl. Place the cavernous bowl on the counter. Look at the floor around you. Go ahead and put the bowl on the floor. You cannot gather or assemble the necessary ingredients. You probably don't even have them all. Yet. Get out your measuring cups. Look at them. Measuring is mostly irrelevant. Put the measuring cups away. Remember the bowl? The one deeper and more expansive than you've ever seen? Some of the ingredients will never make it to the bowl. They'll end up being scattered all over the counter (Because, at first, you didn't want to put the bowl on the floor, did you?) and all over the floor; You can set the oven at any temperature you want. It will change from day to day, even hour to hour, to match the shifting flame of your emotions. Let the fire burn like it wants. Sing to the bowl; sad songs, angry songs, songs of thanksgiving, whatever music wells-up in you. Talk to the bowl; share memories, ask questions, demand answers, use whatever words you find bubbling up. Write the words, even and especially if it feels like you're scribbling in your own blood. Invite another person to come sit on the floor with you; someone who'll refrain from sweeping; someone with ears agape and mouth shut; someone who's not afraid of weeping. Stir everything that makes it into the bowl. Let it rise over night, night after night. Don't worry if, on some nights, it doesn't rise, or if the same thing is there, day after day, or if there are days when there's nothing there. Just stir, sing, talk, weep, scream, breathe, write. And listen. listen, even if it is only to silence. You'll figure out when it's time to put it in the oven by listening to your heart. If you put it in too soon, it's okay to take it back out and resume your stirring. When it finally comes out of the oven, taste it; sit quietly and savor it. You'll probably detect flavors you don't remember seeing in the bowl or scattered on the counter or floor. After you taste it, wrap the rest of it in your heart and carry it with you, wherever you go. In due time, you will feel others who need to taste it. Accept the invitation to their kitchen. Sit on the floor with them. Share the recipe. Give them time and space to stir, sing, weep, write, and bake their own grieving mess. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted…” Psalm 34:18 © 2017 Todd Jenkins
To say it casts itself, like fisherfolk with their nets, is as apt a description as I can render. Only there are no holes to let light through, only thick, suffocating, blanket-like heaviness to trap you underwater. No one knows where it comes from or how it chooses to settle on you and not a stranger whose flailing would barely create a noticeable tremor in our web. Clinicians speak of perfect storms and chemical imbalances -- the likes of hail and hell you wish and pray were completely beyond conjuring. When the darkness falls heaviest, and your ears and heart begin to funnel words into ever-shrinking strings, let these be the ones sinking all the way to the bottom of your soul, to a place where pain is held by love -- the only power strong enough to not let go: You are love with us. You are love with. You are love. You are. You. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
What did they do, on that first Jewish Sabbath following the Thursday of arrest and humiliation; following the Friday of trial and mocking and scourging and flesh-piercing? Promises for the third day were long-tossed out with the other rubbish, their possibility extinguished by the agonizing gore of public crucifixion. Perhaps that Saturday was one when sorrow's adrenaline gave out, leaving them motionless on the floor, dry tears invisibly streaming down the gullies grief had gouged in their cheeks. Maybe they drifted off into exhaustion disguised as sleep, only to bolt upright at random intervals, wishing for slumbering dreams of hope and waking nightmares of memory to exchange places. You would think, whatever else was done, said, and felt, they could easily be convinced that celestial bodies were frozen in the sky, if not backtracking. It appears as if rehearsing the pedantic ritual for burial and body preparation may have been their only respite, its numbing repetition requiring just enough mental and emotional capital to hypnotically rock them toward tomorrow. Will our Saturday ever end? © 2017 Todd Jenkins
The kiss of death (KOD) only cost 30 pieces of silver back in the day, but it was intimate. Today's KOD can be so impersonal, dropped from above, droned from afar. But let's be clear: these measurements we're kicking around come from the top of the heap – the green side of the grass. From below, the price is an altogether different unilateral; it is ultimate – not once-and-for-all, but once-and-nevermore. What do you suppose resurrection will look like now? John 11:50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed. (high priest Caiaphas) © 2017 Todd Jenkins