I didn’t want to say the words this year. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” kept asking to be transposed with something more honest, like, “You were in high school this morning, future slowly unfolding; but now your blood is pooled on the ground, your organs motionless, your body lifeless, your family screaming a caustic cocktail of rage and grief, cameras intruding like uninhibited perverts.” How dare we regurgitate a vacuous litany propped up on flimsy thoughts and prayers! If we can’t be honest, and say we’re not willing to change anything to slow the parade of body bags, then we need to just keep our damn mouths shut, hunkered down behind the walls of our callous indifference. Who will compose a liturgy of lament? Who will sit in this bend of hell’s river, sieve net in hand, scooping the shrapnel-torn fragments of hope as they drift toward the abyss? Answer me! © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Those who’ve loved and left by way of death’s door are not really lost. I call to them, call on them, recall them in so many ways. The names of love are like decorations for the tree; ones I’ve had for years; ones whose stories have made me who I am. If I leave them in the attic or the basement, their memories will not stay in the box. They drift in and out of moments and conversations, deep and rich as ever; never nameless, no matter what, even when I struggle to not say them. I remember your name, and in its speaking, who I’ve been shapes both who I am and who I will become. I remember your name, and as it’s vocalized, life is breathed once more, in me, through me, beyond me. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
When I see them appear in the corner of an eye, it makes me wonder what year they’re from; what story is long buried beneath the surface, in the attic or the basement or the back of a huge wardrobe, where someone thought they’d never be found; but something happens; a series of seemingly unrelated events: a song sung in just the way you remembered; or the wafting essence of bread being baked or the scent a favorite cuisine you haven’t had in years; or the way the light comes through the trees; or some other dormant trigger. There we find ourselves, tears flowing like an artesian well, conjuring up emotional baggage from eons ago, begging us to uncork vintage love, pain, and grief, and sip our way through a story of healing, if not resurrection. © 2017 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
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
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
While Ezra prayed and made confession, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a very great assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him out of Israel; the people also wept bitterly. [Ezra 10:1] In weeping, our hearts are wrung out of all that stands between us and our true selves, between us and our neighbors, between us and God. In every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes. [Esther 4:3] Our squeezed-out spirits can then absorb the gifts we need for the lives to which we’ve been called. Jesus began to weep. [John 11:35] © 2017 Todd Jenkins
As an acrostic of storms accumulates on our news feeds, their names aligned like Beelzebub's old-school Rolodex, we beseech you, O God of wind and water, to breathe a calming counter-wind and send sponge-clouds to hold the deluge, so rain is more gently squeezed out in manageable and absorbable amounts. As the earth trembles to our south, gaping wide to swallow portions of Central American civilization, we pray for a tangible presence of your sacred tether, O God. Give hope to those digging through the rubble in search of life. With and in your strong but tender hand of comfort, O prayer-catcher, gently hold the tears of those buried in the grief of loved ones lost. The forests are ablaze, not with the light of your glory, O God, but with a consuming fire of destruction. You, who created winds that can be whipped into storms, we implore you to breathe extinguishing spirits and send blanketing rains upon the woods and neighborhoods, shielding firefighters and all life in peril's path. May our prayers have hands, feet, wallets, and hearts that know not national boundaries, speaking, acting, giving, and breaking for all, near and far, who find themselves battered and unmoored. Let us refract your love, O Lord, through the dispersive prism of grace, that all may know your rainbow promise. Wind and water, earth and fire, all elements of creation's glory; so let it be imagined; so let it be intoned; so let it become. Selah, selah, selah. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We live and breathe, O God, in a world increasingly beholden, not to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but rather to the gospels of division, fear, hatred, and violence. Remind us today, and each day of our earthly sojourn, that you did not create us for such divisive, loveless, hopeless, and destructive purposes. Give us courage to speak your truth to privilege and power – the privilege and power we've been granted, the privilege and power at the top of the constitutional and governmental food chain, and all privilege and power in-between. Give us compassion to feel the anxiety and hurt rising up from those who regularly find themselves at the short end of the stick and the end of the line, with targets on their backs, because of the practice of their faith, the color of their skin, the nation of their birth, or the configuration of their chromosomes. Give us wisdom to recognize the greed and indifference that turn a blind eye for profit's sake. Give us integrity to live into our created purpose, so we may speak justice, walk humility, and breathe hope. As followers of the resurrected one, we are called to be his voice, his hands, his feet. Show us how to live and love, so we and our broken world can find ourselves pieced together by and mortared with grace. So let it be spoken, so let it be lived, so let it be done. © 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