Photo by Kally Thompson Elliott
In August of 2013, through the confluence of a number of circumstances and experiences, I was compelled to pull to the side of the highway one morning and record a new perspective on a portion Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”.
Give me your tomatoes, your peppers, your hybrid melons, yearning to be consumed, but not so much your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of bowing to chemicals and corporations has our shores teeming with toxicity, and our hearts quivering with xenophobia. The tempest-tossed who dream of hope will not so much be met with lamp at golden door as laser sight and incarceration. All the while, our consumptive greed turns a blind eye to the duplicity of deportation and the rending of family's fabric, to which we claim undying allegiance. Who will resurrect liberty? © 2013 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Humans of one religion killing humans of another, solely because of their faith, is nothing less than absurd. Does it happen? Not nearly as much as the media would have us believe. Not that killing is fabricated; but that religion, as a driving force for death, is a red herring. To be sure, there are people all over the world, every day, who kill one another; but faith’s practice is rarely, if ever, the culprit. In fact, it is the confusion and blurring of politics, ideology, and economics with religion that becomes a flimsy excuse for disregarding human life; primarily, it is the attempt to sanctify any other egotistical, violent, social construct by overlaying the framework of religion. Holy warriors, be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other (and there are plenty to go around), are RINO: Religious In Name Only. They have stolen their parents’ car and run off on a killing spree, but a religious bumper sticker does not justify their malice. People who tell you differently bang the drum of fear and ignorance, hoping you’ll fall into lock-step, as the troops parade before lesser gods. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
To the person for whom there's never enough, there's always suspicion others want your stuff. The one who is consumed with greed, will never be touched by hunger and need. If comparison's the game by which you thrive, the train of joy will never arrive. Look at what you have, instead of what's lacking; it’s an important step to send discontent packing. Seeing the big picture is a form of art that fashions a glad and generous heart. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
This one was written in 2015
How can we more fully move beyond a respect for the flag and knee-jerk patriotism to a discussion of the actions of a government driven, not by a desire for liberty and justice for all, but by the fear, greed, and homogeneity of a few? If our culture is going to change for the better, we're going to have to create a safe environment for deeper conversations. We're going to have to face, admit, and address our own comfort and complicity in the power structures that exist. We're going to have to live glocally – thinking globally and acting locally. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
It's a convenient way to distance ourselves from both blame and responsibility; "Somebody else" is a sly way of saying, "Don't look at me!" But it actually makes me want to stare; to stare and ask, "Just who do we think we aren't?" No matter how many barriers with which we desperately surround ourselves – racial, economic, national, religious – our shared DNA of biology and spirituality denies every construct of "other." If we aren't our sister's keeper, whatever else we're keeping isn't worth it. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Prayers of the People for January 29, 2017.
Photo by Lizzie Mazariegos
We live, O God, in a fearful and divided culture; separated, not just from other faiths and nations, but also from the people who live in our neighborhoods, work with us, go to school with us, and even from some of the ones with whom we break bread on a regular basis. Our faith's rich tradition calls us away from such anxiety and estrangement, reminding us that we are all in this together; and contrary to Cain's distancing of himself from Abel's buried body, we ARE our neighbors' keeper, in neighborhoods without borders. We pray, O Lord, for guidance and wisdom, as we navigate our personal, community, state, and national roadmaps. Show us the narrow highway of love, even as it winds through the challenging mountains of relationship, listening, and sacrifice. Give us feathers on our skin, bones hollow yet strong, courage of the clouds, so we won't be pulled long earthward by gravity's fear, but freed instead to float on rising currents of hope, higher into grace's atmosphere. If only it were so easy, O God, like poetry rolling off our tongues, whisking us to happily ever after; but we know better. Our lives bear the bruises of broken hearts; our families carry the scars of shattered dreams. Give us this day, O storytelling dream-catcher, both tenacity and tenderness for the living of these days. Give us the gifts we need to open the doors of welcome to a world hungry and thirsty to know that your story is also their story. These and all prayers we ask in the name of the one who fed, healed, and welcomed the broken to a table of abundance; Jesus, the Christ. Amen. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Privilege is not always a purposefully chosen perch. Sometimes, it is an heirloom pair of platform shoes, handed down from generation to generation; so comfortably ingrained in our lives that we begin to believe the reason our view is head and shoulders above the rest is because we were born this tall. Make sure your mirror is floor-length, fully revealing all dimensions and spectrums. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Far beyond a failure to protect them, intentional massacre is heinousness in the highest degree. How frightened do you have to be to declare all babies two years-old and younger acceptable collateral damage for your political aspirations and narcissistic ego? It's easy to condemn Herod for his atrocity. What's more difficult is admitting our own complicity in failing to leverage our privilege and power to provide basic dignity for today's children; for lumping innocents with those who've hijacked religion for violent political purposes so we can justify keeping them, not just at manger's-length, but exiled to places worse than Pharaoh's Egypt. Lord, have mercy, not just on our souls, but on our hearts and the lives of children everywhere. © 2016 Todd Jenkins
So much of what's important in life is learned from paying attention, which is precisely what the Magi did. That, and risk an adventure to a faraway place to behold a sight no one had ever seen before. Herod was a hoot, quite sure they had come to blow smoke up his royal robe; but when they confessed their desire to find a child who'd been born to lead the very people he was sure he controlled, he flipped his lid. Surrounded by yes-men attuned to his agenda and his alone, he never stood a chance; but that didn't stop him from scheming a murderous plot. First, he feigned interest in also worshiping this new king. Never mind that Herod's idea of worship included a slit throat. The sojourning stargazers were nothing, if not persistent, trekking all the way to Bethlehem, where they were not disappointed, paying homage and leaving their now-famous trio of gifts behind. Of course there would be one more dream in this mystical tale; this one urging them to go "home by another way." Now that we know the story, how seekers from a faraway land were first to bow the knee, how a displaced family became refugees, how dreams drove the whole story, and how God chose this precarious tale as a path to arrive in-the-flesh, do we have the courage to live with such imagination, expectation, and abandon in our own incarnational narratives? The children are waiting, and hoping that our answer is yes; praying that our answer is life. © 2016 Todd Jenkins
(Flat Creek Bottle Chapel, Flat Creek, TN) What child is this, whose manger lies beneath the dark, cold Bethl’em skies? Child of wonder, child of woe, child whose heart will not let go of pain and suf’ring, war and strife, of that which burdens all of life. Child whose heart breaks hard and true for that which God desires to do: bring light to darkness, salve to pain; bring hope to those who know but bane. Child whose simple gifts unfold grace’s promise ancient told: “Who you are and who you’ll be, were all designed at dawned eternity; live into hope, love into being, and Christmas’ gift you will be seeing!” Join angels’, shepherds’, Magi’s voice, for Emmanuel’s tent and pitching rejoice. May Christmas’ joy in your life abound; may you live its gift the whole year ‘round! © 2016 Todd Jenkins