This was the sign in a church’s fellowship hall. It was summer, AKA gardening season, so I knew, from my experience, that the first word was accented on the first syllable. Zucchini, tomatoes, okra, and all sorts of vegetable delectables would come and go from this spot, offered from abundance, received with gratitude. But then my inner wordsmith asked its “What if?” question. What if this was a verb, not a noun? What if it was divine instruction on life’s deepest meaning? What if it was a holy critique of cultures and economies, pulling us together, rather than apart, reminding us that we are, first, last, and foremost, created for community? What if our whole lives – not just our gardens – are designed for us to pro-DUCE to share? But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Melinda Dukes
By the time your garb is a shroud, your final wardrobe, if not your final answer, the cargo pants, with all their treasure-holding capacity, will be long gone. Neither the gold bullion nor any other gaudy bling will have a resting place in your great beyond. The only thing you can fill are the pockets of hearts, yours and others’. Pour into them memories of practicing the three most valuable gifts of Life: Loving Listening Laughing Invest in this trio every chance you get, and the whole world will benefit greatly. You’re part of the whole world, so you’ll also be richer. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Grace is a haunting melody, if anything, and the best that any of us can do is lay our stories within her measures and dare to sing the narrative of our lives. Of course you’ll sing off-key. We all do. And we’ll sing through the rests, screeching like a testosterone-enraged tom-cat on the prowl, or a love-sick mother wooing life-giving resources for her brood. But the day will come, not all at once, and not when we notice or expect it, when it almost sounds as if we’re harmonizing, even though we don’t know how. The voices of those nearest and dearest will also begin to blend, as we learn to use ears more than mouths; navigating the hallway between head and heart. Belt it, baby! The world is hungering to hear your cover. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
It seems to me that the evil of possessions — whether it be money, property, power, privilege, or something else — is not that we own them, but that in the very act of our ownership, two subliminal things happen: (1) our ownership, when reflected in the public sphere, tends to generate a sense of scarcity, rather than abundance; and (2) our possessions, then, become our possessors. That is how the appearance of even one or two human creatures (Yeah, we have a way of dehumanizing them, don’t we?) can trigger a full-scale anxiety attack. That’s when our possessing possessions begin to whisper to us, “You know, we’re not unlimited, and if you start sharing us, before you know it, the tables will be flipped — you never know who’ll overturn them — and you’ll become the vile creature yourself; and you know no one will share any of us with you, then.” Sneaky little twits, aren’t they? © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Flat Creek Bottle Chapel (Flat Creek, TN)
Politics and Faith often function as competing claims for the same prize: the soul of humanity. You can no more baptize one in the name of the other with a light sprinkling of rhetoric than you can sweeten the ocean with a few teaspoons of sugar. I'm not a professional student of the history of the USA's immigration policy, but the piecemeal agreements and policies that directly address and affect our neighbors to the south seem to be heavily weighted toward developing and protecting corporate interests, with little concern for how these economic realities impact the movement, safety, and cohesiveness of individual workers and their families. We need less people piecing together and quoting scattered verses of scripture, and more people whose intellectual anchor is sunk in our sacred texts' overarching theme. God's historical predilection for all whose circumstances are void of power, voice, influence, and control is peppered throughout scripture's narrative. Until that imperative is given a legitimate seat at the policy table, and the economic practices that perpetuate our ballooning resource imbalance are up for honest discussion, human and family need will continue to be unaddressed and unmet. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
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
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
Pray with your mouth, pray with your feet, pray on the rooftop, pray in the street. Pray 'til the end, pray from the start, pray with your hands, pray with your heart. Pray with your money, pray with your boat, pray with your muscle, pray with your vote. Pray with your breathing, pray with your mind, pray with your stories, pray with anything you find. Pray out of the water, pray out of the air, wherever and whatever, make sure it's all prayer. Pray when you arrive, pray while you're on the way; with all your being and doing, always and forever, pray. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Gay Jenkins Howell
The truth of Adam and Eve, a friend told me, is "A fig leaf is no substitute for a therapist." So much here to feast on; so much here to run from; so much here too real to face, yet too close to reject. Let us dare to live and breathe in a naked now, O holy one, not as tawdry exploitation of bodies as objects, but as death-defying risk of abandonment to no less and no more than our light-reflecting and shadow-casting selves; for the truth of creation's story cannot be told without such revealing. Let both our poetry and our prose stand and fall as blood-pumping gamble of allowing the narrative of who we are to pulse out of our own woundedness, for it is in and from our stories that we'll live and die and be resurrected, not just in the end, but also in the breath of their telling. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
As finite beings immersed in a three-dimensional chronology, we know stories of the time before we existed, we catch glimpses of moments we're in, and we are sometimes haunted by the time when we will no longer be. Mortality's question knocks regularly, "When and how will I die?" Instead of ruminating on circumstances of our death, what if we poured ourselves into the questions of life? *For whom will I have a chance to breathe and speak love today? *Where and when can I reflect grace today? *How can my modeling of forgiveness tilt the world toward hope today? Answering these, and questions like them, will bring us to life in the moment. This is the promise of resurrection for and in the present. © 2017 Todd Jenkins