Photo by Owen Jenkins
How much more has our access to a virtual world exacerbated our isolation and identity of both other and self as stranger? We are, are we not, e-strangers; limited-character replies passing in the night, hell-bent and fear-rent on steaming full speed ahead so we don’t dare take on anything, much less anyone? Neighborhooding, friending, working, voting, and churching ourselves into social, economic, and religious homogeneity are not the answer; they are the problem. Open the door — the actual physical one — and break out the food — the kind that satisfies real human hunger. We must gather ‘round a table where all have a seat and none are on the menu. This is our only chance; our only path away from mutually assured destruction; our only road to hope. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Mother Earth hopes, at the core of her molten magma, that we will soon wake up to the divine declaration, proclaimed at the universe’s dawning, that we are all connected, and our purpose is to pull together, instead of apart, so we all experience a full unfolding of dignity, worth, and respect. Otherwise, we’ll become little more than momentary fireworks in a recalculation of global proportions. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins
I’d offer you a fluffy basketful of thoughts and prayers, but I’m pretty sure you’ve had a bate of shallow nothingness. I’d offer you unfettered second amendment and total gun confiscation, but I can tell we’ve all suffered enough from artificial binary limitations. I’d offer you religious extremism and mental illness, but it seems like there’s already a glut of selective blame and projection. In digging through the closet, in search of something else to offer, there, at the back, I find an old table and lots of chairs, all covered with cobwebs. Let’s take them out, dust them off, and all pull up a seat. Let’s leave the bank accounts and the campaign contributions at home, and have a genuine discussion about who needs what and how to make changes that’ll significantly slow down the filling up of cemeteries with the bullet-riddled bodies of our loved ones. Let’s let everyone have a say, and then commit ourselves to making this a safer place to live together. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)
"My sons and daughters, why have you forsaken them? Why are you so far from responding to the their cries and groanings? They beseech you in daylight, wailing at the wall you’ve constructed to separate their lives from your comfort and security. By night, their pleas waft on smoldering embers of their deconstruction." The victors have constructed a lovely narrative of deliverance; their cry, God’s response; like a sacred vending machine, fed with the coin of deserving. But what of those who are judged to be subpar, those whose DNA, language, or faith heritage come from beyond the 23&me dream package? What of those who showed up for work or school or worship, oblivious to the call to pack heat for self-preservation; those who trusted that the least of these, the lambs, would be protected by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds? They counted on us to carry them; to be there, not just in the delivery room, but at the grocery store checkout, the public library, the classroom, the youth group meeting, the job fair. Is our absence because we don’t really care, or because we’re actually the carnivores circling ‘round them? Their tongues glue to the roof of their mouths, like jerky dried for consumption, salted with the tears of their anguish. Their skin taut, revealing a cadaverous collection of bones. The coyotes circle, yipping and nipping, casting lots for what little remains. The dream we sold them promised they’d have a shot; guaranteed dignity, respect, even opportunity; but the fine print and disclaimer excluded them for myriad reasons, mostly because we feared that including them would cost us too much. We are slow to catch on, O Lord; blind and deaf and too scared to realize that tossing them to the curb is infinitely more costly than we ever dreamed, because it has cost us our very souls. Is there still time, still hope, still opportunity to pull more chairs ‘round the table? If we feed those who’ve been starved, welcome those who’ve been exiled, humble ourselves before you and pray, will you make your light shine upon us all, once again? We wrap ourselves with the sackcloth of confession, and dust ourselves with the ash of contrition, O holy one, in hopes that our forsaking will not become our forsakenness. Deliver us, we pray, that we may live to proclaim your story to generations yet to come. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Those who are vocabulary-challenged, and/or overcome by fear, often feel forced to abandon oral communication in favor of violence; the bravest, or perhaps the most desperate, perpetrate physical aggression; those with lesser gumption often assault language itself, waging battle against long-held meaning, gas-lighting society into lexical confusion. The rest of us are then tasked to hold firm to the tension between conflict forced upon us, and the eternal possibility of language, refusing to abandon the common ground of our shared meanings. In the end, war’s horror cannot stand on its own; and words, with their community interpretations, will win, because our common story outlives every other blitzkrieg, and love’s vocal evocation eventually woos even frozen, trembling hearts. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13) © 2018 Todd Jenkins
I wanted my words to make a difference; not just the words that leaked out of my mouth in the heat of the moment, but the words that seeped out of my veins, carrying parts of me from the deepest places I’ve yet to plumb, when your pain stabbed me with the dull side of its blade, its razor edge sunk to the hilt in your heart. I wanted my blood to make a difference; but it didn’t. At least, it didn’t effect the wispy dream of reconciliation I constructed with letters, punctuation, and space — lots of space. So, here we are, on the far side of words — on the dried side of blood — and the wet side of tears; still groping for the edge of the grave, still hoping for breath not squeezed tight by pain and rejection. Here we are. Here we are. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Linda Patrick
“Justice and peace will kiss each other." - Psalm 85:10 Justice and Peace embrace in a warm hug and double-cheek kiss because they’re long-lost siblings, separated soon after birth by cultures, societies, nations, and people who cannot see and believe God’s generosity and extravagance; a blind disbelieving which tilts the world toward selfishness, greed, anxiety, and fear. In the tension of such shrinking, their (J’s & P’s) mother had to ship them off to separate family members to be raised, while she continually cleans up the messes and patches the rent fabric in societies that tiny-hearted people create. At least, that’s the story I’m dreaming. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
(a preacher’s dream/hope for a new year)
Some folks are great at telling stories with their mouths. Theirs are the most detailed and most accurate. They are also the longest and often the most boring, stumbling and fumbling over facts irrelevant to both the point of the story and their listeners. Other people are great at regaling you with their own ears, keenly aware of how their tales make them appear in the eyes of their audience. Whatever else you’ve learned when they are finished, you now see them in a more ethereal light. Help me, O Lord, learn how to unfold narratives using borrowed ears, so my listeners hear, not me or my most presentable self or their pretend selves, but their deepest, richest selves in the story. Even more, let their ears tell me how to verbally reveal glimpses of grace, calling us all to a hope that is deeper, broader, more connective, and more accessible than before vocal chords strummed and ear drums beat in synchronized rhythm. © 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
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