Respecting the awesome power of words!

Latest

You

FullSizeRender (100)Yes, you…

Momming is identified,
not by biology, but
by its web of care,
its haven of hope,
its manuscript of guidance,
its blanket of prayer,
its fire of indignation,
its roots of relationship,
its watering can of nurture,
its stove of nourishment,
its taxi of deliverance (and sometimes rescue),
its bottomless bucket of belief,
its bone-deep compassion and grief,
its purse of support,
its sermon of conviction,
its cheer of encouragement,
and quite a few more
that often fade into the backdrop.

A toast to you,
and all the ways
you've mommed us:
may your spiritual DNA
keep the universe
expanding toward grace!

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Generosity

patrick 03
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)

 

This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.

Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.

Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.

patrick 01

A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.

A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school.  Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.

This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.

patrick 02

Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Priesthood of All Believers

hh4

When chaos,
disaster, disease,
and even death
invade others' lives,

our presence,
mostly in silence,
will mediate grace
much more wholly
than telling them
our comparative story.

The time for narrative connection
may come, but give us courage,
O God, to wait
until we're invited.

It won’t likely occur
until grief and agony
have held their sway,
and hope has wafted in
through a window partially cracked
by our steadfast,
listening presence.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Poet

IMG_9436Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

To borrow a book title from one of my seminary professors, 
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet.

space-maker, mold-breaker, heart-shaker…

thought-drifter, shape-shifter, dream-sifter…

bell-ringer, tear-bringer, sweat-wringer…

trip-booker, fresh-looker, love-cooker…

beast-tamer, peace-framer, grace-namer…

risk-taker, earth-quaker, hope-baker…

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Counting

 

IMG_9681

Yes, we feel numbers
being flung at us
from the budget,
as well as the calendar,
and the clock,
like the daggers
from a stage act,
and we swear we've never
seen the blindfolded wielder before.

But while we're bobbing and weaving,
clinging to the hope that
we'll make it to next year
and beyond with a modicum
of courage, sanity, and purpose,
I have a few
molasses-freezing questions;
ones that might unpack
a dream we don't remember.

They seem to me to be
the kind of questions
that our revered institutions
must face in this
particular time and place:

What if we found out
that the thing we financially
couldn't afford to do
was the very thing
we organizationally and existentially
couldn't afford not to do?

To put it another way:
Which costs matter most,
and how will we count them?
What risks must we take
in order to face
the future with integrity?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

They

IMG_9679

They demanded and
even forced your labor,
offering no or little wages.

Silly me; I assured myself
I was doing comparatively well,
and somebody had
to be at the bottom,
mostly glad it wasn't me.

They took your dignity,
with images and cultural narratives
painting you as lesser,
or airbrushing you out
of the picture altogether.

Foolish me; I looked
in the mirror and saw
the right shade and shape,
assuming I still had
shreds of my own remaining.

They kicked you out
by banning and deportation,
as if culture, language, and religion
were legitimate wedges.

Trembling me; I fell
for scapegoating, ignoring
the malignancy
of systemic dis-ease.

They broke your spirit,
kicking you in the gut
with insufficient opportunities,
boot on your throat
with charges of laziness.

Ignorant me; I thought
I could prop mine up
with consumption and dogged pursuit,
not of my dreams, but
of what they told me to desire.

They're here
to steal your soul,
and it slices through my own,
clearly awakening me
to our eternal tether.

Now, I realize I've been
a part of "they" all along,
with my blind eye,
my silence, my privilege,
my vested interest votes.

Maybe we can't go back,
but I know that,
wherever we must go from here,
it will have to be together.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Raised

rozsalinePainting by Rosalind Golden Saline

Surely light years beyond
wildest hopes and
deepest imaginations,
he is raised,
not just from the tomb,
but also from the debasing
of mocking, the torture
of scourging, and the excruciating
execution of crucifixion.

Was his appearance
nearly incognito because
of the impossibility of it all,
or because transcending death
alters persona far beyond
human fathomability?
Perhaps it was both.

His face, tilted skyward,
eyes closed,
no longer in agony,
now in serenity.

His skin at one
and the same time ashen,
yet fully thrushed with life;
its shading defies
ethnocentric limitations.

His lips, resting in a fashion
best-described as tranquility.
Completely antithetical
to terrestrial powers that sought
his demise via violence,
his presence exudes a gentleness
only love can elicit;

right hand lowered and open,
both revealing a lack
of animosity and weaponry,
and clearly displaying
still-fresh wounds,
beckoning us toward
our own deepest healing;

his left hand pointing heavenward,
living water flowing from it,
new life springing up
from a parched desert floor;
light bursting from above,
revealing creation’s eternally-held dream.

Last, but also perhaps first,
the robe;
swirling transfiguration's glow
with stone-rolling angel's ensemble;
but even those two foreshadowings
are inadequate descriptions
of its hope-infused cloud.

Sit with the elements;
letting life's river wash over you,
divine wind swirl your heart,
and corpus  of unconditional love
carry you into the grace
of each tomorrow's resurrection.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

IS

IMG_7490Photo by Anne Shurley

 

So many stories surrounded
with 'splainin’ on all sides,
to help us engage
senses, mind, and spirit;
historical and geographic settings,
names and titles, details galore.

Did you ever notice
how little detail is provided
for the gospel accounts
of resurrection?

How the women arrive in the garden –
always the women –
with their minds set on one thing,
when their hearts are taken aback
both by the presence of angels
and the absence of a body?

How no one – neither narrator
nor character nor angel – 
wastes any ink
or breath to tell us how?

Nothing but active verb
in present tense.
He IS risen.

That's what we need to know.
From there, we follow,
letting the IS of resurrection
bring us straightforward
into the world's active presence.

Metaphor and poetry may be
the heart of our God-speak,
as no vocabulary or alphabet
are capable of capturing
the divine self;
but faith's foundational eruption
from the tomb simply IS.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Easter Excerpts

cave

 

Matthew’s gospel has a whole lot of quaking going on. I want you to think about this quaking. Why is it here in the story? What does it mean?

27:50-53 …&…….  28:2

Sometimes it takes a little quaking to get us out of our ruts and our comfort zones, but our quaking differs considerably from God’s. Power’s shaking can’t hold a candle to love’s quaking.

I was going to race to the tomb,
but the women beat me to it.

I would have tried to roll away the stone,
but the angel-quake took care of that.

I might have raced
to tell the rest of the disciples,
assuming I wasn't among them,
behind locked doors,
quaking with fear.

The problem is
that most of these opportunities
are 2,000+ years gone.

Here’s the question I think both supersedes and surpasses our fascination with “Some bright morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” It’s this:

“In the big scheme of things, if death doesn’t have the last word, what does this change about life?” That is, “What difference does resurrection make in your and my here & now?”

28:7 The great hope & promise of resurrection is “he is going ahead of you”. Where would we be willing to go, what would we be willing do to, and who would we be willing to become if we really believed that he is still going ahead of us?

28:8 Resurrection sets us free from having to be God & from the burden of keeping ourselves alive. THAT’s the bizarre combination of “fear and great joy” that the women feel as they leave to keep moving toward the place to which the risen Christ is calling them.

This Easter, I'm praying
for the courage to set aside
all the shoulda, coulda,
and wouldas of my life.

Then, the only things left
 to do are to:

look for him among the living;

& reflect his light
 into the pain, suffering,
and grief of others;

& believe I'm forgiven
so I can practice forgiving others;

& step aside so grace can expand
into the places I'd rather it didn't;

& share my broken-hearted love
in broken ways,
with other broken people;

& take a pinch of bread
and a sip of wine,
believing that sacraments
make him real in ways
beyond my fathoming;

& practice the laying on of ears,
listening to both the entombing
and the untombing stories of others.

& finally, to breathe –
just breathe –
when I cannot
muster the wherewithal
to do anything else;

This is what I'll do,
trusting it will be enough.

Yes, the reality of resurrection
comes to pass, not just
"Some bright morning,
when this life is o'er..."
but also each day
in the here and now;

not by my own acts
or righteousness,
but by the love of God
in, through,
and around us all.

Easter’s quake keeps trembling,
raising the hair on your arm
and the back of your neck,
raising hope in your heart,
raising your capacity for compassion,
raising you and I to levels of love
we’ve never imagined.

By the grace of God,
Easter's not
our burden to prove.
It's our gift to live.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Saturday

IMG_3104

 

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