Perhaps, love can be broad and wide, the way fields of wheat slowly stretch across the Midwest plain, meting out their grain as daily Eucharist. But it can also be deep and swift, like a fierce river cutting through a canyon, washing us downstream toward an ocean of delight. It seems, for any given person, place, and time, we neither get to choose the terrain on which their love finds us, nor when it takes flight, winging toward tomorrow, fragmented pieces of our hearts in tow. Ours is the task of withstanding the cavernous echo of its passing, cobbling together a sense of hope from the memories and ashes of a flame no longer burning. Ours is also the call to add the wood of our own bones, while we still can, to the fires of those around us, in hopes that our own embers may somehow help to kindle others’ remembrances of grace sufficient for opening hands and eyes to resurrection. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Lord, deliver us from whataboutism in all its forms, both used for or against the ideas/people safely ensconced within the parameters of our confirmation bias. Dare us, as humans on this journey together, to neither deflect from the present nor shirk responsibility for the past. Instead, we pray, give us courage and fortitude to do the right thing now, and do it next, again and again, without the need to point toward another person, place, and time where fear, hatred, and ignorance prevailed, as if that were, somehow, an excuse for serial repetition of the same, similar, or a counterbalancing stupidity. Help us, O holy one, to find our footing on the Grace Highway, somewhere in the broad lane between the conviction of history’s blindness and the overflowing fountain of divine mercy. Give us, O God, compassionate strength and peace in our marrow to plumb the depths of our connected condition, that we may climb, together, toward a road higher and more sacred than the one on which we currently find ourselves. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Whatever choices you have in your box of crayons; whatever their condition — worn down to a nubbin, paper peeled and tattered, broken in half — take the one whose hue reflects presence and absorbs distance; use it to fill in the spaces between the lines of the real-life drawing that are me. However that appears, it’s who I want to be. When words have run their course, for better or worse, and nothing’s left worth saying, I’ll sit with you in the silence, as we remember what we can of yesterday, as we struggle to breathe through the weight of today’s hurt, as we hope our way into tomorrow. Yes, take that crayon and color me here. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins
I have come to realize, more and more, that the core purpose and power of ministry is naming people’s angst and giving them permission to plumb the depths of their feelings. Otherwise, we have no escape route from the implosive culture of denial and anesthesia in which we reside.
It matters not that this cycle has rhythmically appeared year after year, the sun becoming a short-timer in our sphere. The weight of darkness bears down, like concrete blocks on our chests. Then comes the exponential factor of medical derailment; the return of one who was most unwelcome the first time around; now doubly so, as we have seen the physiological and emotional tsunami this cellular demon leaves in its wake. Enough, already, and more! Come holy pneuma, breathe your hope into our lungs, our bones, our very souls! Inflate our lives with your grace, and Lazarus us once more with the fire of your love! © 2018 Todd Jenkins
So often I have longed and looked for her to arrive on stately steed, impenetrable coat of mail, shield, sword, and spear to multiply the fear, as I sit idly by, enjoying the show. When she appears, demurely standing beside all whose necks bear the boot print of power, all who’re on the menu, steadily waving the flag of resistance, I look right past her, blinded by the irony of a privilege that’s unable to recognize anything but the love of power, impervious to the power of love. Still, she refuses to throw me under the bus, declines to send me to a seat in the rear. “Sing with us.” she invites. “The revolution will uproot fear and hatred, not with looking glass’ shield and retribution, but by the resonance of neighbor and the restoration of love.” That's when the fire in my bones is stoked, and I can more clearly see where my own words and actions can add to the dismantling of the leaning tower, and lay a foundation for hope. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Can we sing our faith; let our instruments accompany us along a journey through the valleys of pain, loss, and despair? The beat and rhythm of percussion and keyboard, the synthesis of two hands and their family of fingers sliding and gliding across the frets and strings, pressing and plucking out deep, heartfelt connections to soulful gashes that refuse to succumb to the grief and chaos that have crashed their way into our bones and lives; these are what give power and energy to voices wailing the dissonance of our suffering, their courageous tremolo and vibrato, conjuring hope ex nihilo. Without music’s smoldering fire, creation’s dream of love would surely be extinguished. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
“Let go.” she said. “It will help you differentiate between what you’re meant to hold, and what’s weighing you down.” “Let go?” I exclaimed! “Are you kidding? I’ve been holding on my whole life; sometimes by nothing more than a thread, but always squeezing with every ounce of my being!” “And what do you have to show for that?” came her jabbing reply. “Tired hands? A smaller circle?” In the deepest places, I knew she was right, but I had been grasping for so long that I couldn’t imagine not doing so. Then, she pointed to the trees. “At the time when their foliage is at its most glorious, they let go, watching their leaves float to the ground, withering and turning into a rich humus for future growth.” As the muscles in my hands groaned in relief, I felt the beautifully colored leaves of my life drifting toward a holy compost pile. Let go. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
My mind could not wrap around the unraveling of the plans I’d made, so orderly and logical were they; but far more than that, it was the way their unfolding, in my imagination, made me feel so majestic, so accomplished, so free, soaring above the daily fracas of life, the way an Amway sales pitch paints for you a Rockwellian portrait of contentment and success, not only in the end, but even in the middle of it all. It was as if a ginormous asteroid struck my world without warning; the cavernous crater left behind bore the curse word, “cancer.” She had so many years left, or was supposed to, and I had even more; or did I? I thought my heart had stopped. I knew it had broken into more fragile and jagged pieces than I ever thought possible. That was 1986, and here we are, 32 years gone by; many twists and even a few wrong turns. If you had shaken your little snow globe back then, and shown me what’s around me now — who’s around me — I would have laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all, staring in disbelief until the last flake drifted through the heavy liquid to the faux ground. But here we are, aren’t we? You and I surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses; our hearts blessed, broken, poured out, over and over, forever being pulled toward someone else with whom the gathered fragments can be shared. Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
So many ways I can imagine for you to find your way out of this steep canyon of grief; the sun rising across the mountains of pain, or at least a waxing moon reflecting hope across the valley from a starlit sky; memories of laughter flashing across the screen, interrupting your suffering like bulletins from an Emergency Broadcast System; long-forgotten stories of hope and love retold and rekindled at tables surrounded by grace and comfort food; mercy and forgiveness floating through your dreams and into your marrow like smoke from a lazy campfire. All of these are what I pray for you, but most of all, I hope you breathe.
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”(John 20:22)
© 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins
Your courage is inspiring. Never underestimate or forget that. I feel a fire. At first I believe it is yours only; the coals of anger and rage, fueled by violations and their attempts to dehumanize you. After I stand uncomfortably near the heat for a while, my bare feet blistered from its remnants, I realize that I do not want it to be yours alone. I want — I need — for it to be mine; not because doing so will reveal the depth of your ache in ways I can fully comprehend; but because a candle flickers in my dreams, dawning on me, like the sun rising across distant mountains, casting both light and shadows on my own identity, revealing a painting of worth and healing that is inextricably woven into this inferno. In morning’s light, I realize that we must have worth together, or we will have no worth at all. I know that my tears will not cool, much less extinguish the blaze, but I also know that their flow is the path that connects us, not only to one another, but also to the selves of dignity and respect for which we were created. © 2018 Todd Jenkins