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 Jo Lightner Todd
Often, the thing that kills us – the thing that digs the hole into which we fall, and from which we are incapable of self-extraction – isn't the full-strength sulfuric acid of hate thrown in our face, but a slowly constructed ladder of slights and judgments raising another up high enough to no longer be willing to see and hear that our stories all have the same origin and will conclude with the same destination. It is indifference that steals away the breath once filling the air between us, a liter at a time, until we are rendered unconscious by the divisive vacuum. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
A song we all know well called and left a message: I’m music, written from a particular place and time, intended to stir human souls to passion and magnanimity, through both my tune and lyrics. When I begin to fail at that task, as the cracks and limitations of my era’s sociocultural ignorance magnify, don’t set off smokescreens, dig your heels in blindly, or deify me, for fear of loss/change. Instead, listen to one another’s story and experiences, together, creating a present and future out of which more hopeful tunes and lyrics can be given birth and live. Remember, I’m here to serve at your collective pleasure, not to have you serve at mine. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Death by violence; it is the trademark of a culture predicated on consumption as arrival and competition for survival. The socioeconomic sausage grinder uses people like inanimate ingredients in a secret family recipe, where nothing matters but the finished product, and the only ones not on the menu are those who’ve schemed or entitled their way to a table for one. When you hear the engine groan for lack of fodder, and squeal for lack of lubricant, be sure to check the list of ingredients needed to satisfy the beast. No matter the euphemism behind which it's cloaked, if what's really called for are the bones and blood of human lives, maybe it's time to build a more just machine; time to confess that stockpiled weaponry, war’s machinery, tilted and justified incarceration, and border-based enslavement aren’t really meant to keep us safe or help the weak defend and provide for themselves, but to keep power mongers on top. Maybe it’s time to take this kind of sausage off the menu, and search our collective souls for more sustainable fare. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
They didn’t and don’t put their lives on the line to save a flag or to demand we all stand or revere a song; but to give citizens of their nation — all citizens — the chance to enjoy lives of dignity, respect, and opportunity. When forces within a national culture, economy, and infrastructure thwart such freedom for some, pushing them to call attention to such incongruity by the exercise of a first amendment right, it’s not flag or nation being disrespected, but the notion that one experience is the only one that’s normative. Waving patriotism, nationalism, or soldiers’ service and sacrifice as objection to the objection, are red herrings, as is the suggestion that there are less offensive methods, since acceptability is a big part of what renders outcry ineffective. Instead of attempting to to force all into lockstep, may our discomfort drive us toward the recognition of systemic injustice, and to a table where ears lean in to understand, rather than recoil to fashion argument and disagreement. Dismissing and refusing to listen to the stories of protesters is the surest way to escalate refraction of their experience while delegitimizing their lives. To object to dissent is to miss the whole point of freedom. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Throughout history, people have cordoned themselves off by self-identification in layers, climbing and clamoring to stand on top of something or someone – anyone or anything – just as long as they do not believe they are at the bottom. In so doing, the bodies beneath their feet are eventually construed to be less than human. The hardest lesson of all, and one that upends the whole fragile pile, unfolds when we wake up and realize that dehumanizing itself is what sentences dehumanizers to their own judgment; and those whose hope, no matter how fragile and compressed by the vitriol, has held through the storm, are the only ones who can lift us all toward the sacred purpose of our shared humanity. © 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
Why is grace so difficult to accept unconditionally? Because we know, too well, the difference between who we are on the inside and the image we project for sociocultural, economic, and religious acceptance on the outside. Because our small worldview and our limited understanding of the universe's sacred narrative cause us to accept scarcity as more plausible than abundance. Because comparison and competition have been deeply ground into our psyches. Without grace, we are one slip-up, one wrong turn, one moment of exhaustion, one hesitation, one secret revealed, from relegation to the heap of the also ran and the obviously unworthy. With grace, by grace, through grace, we are finally and fully free to abandon ourselves to the beating of hearts and the breath of stories – ours and everyone else's. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Randy Calvo
For the hearty souls, O God, who find the Depot Home away from home, and yet in no way home, we give you thanks and pray. For those who understand Matthew 20 far better than they wished, who line-up like cattle in the chute, or slaves on the block, striking a paradoxical pose of desperation and indifference, hoping against hope to find a generous master for a day, we offer prayer, knowing that it is but the beginning. Let us be emboldened, by the words and fire of our supplications, O Lord of labor, so we may recognize them as neighbors, aflame enough to challenge the systemic injustice driving their daily auction. Let us be courageous enough to see their families, dependent on their labor, and to understand their work is also something on which we, ourselves, are dependent. Whether they live around the corner or across the border, give us courage to enact love in tangible and nourishing ways. Let us skip the 23andme, practicing the radical hospitality of our spiritual genetics with these kinfolk of ours. Let us open God's storehouse. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Pray with your mouth, pray with your feet, pray on the rooftop, pray in the street. Pray 'til the end, pray from the start, pray with your hands, pray with your heart. Pray with your money, pray with your boat, pray with your muscle, pray with your vote. Pray with your breathing, pray with your mind, pray with your stories, pray with anything you find. Pray out of the water, pray out of the air, wherever and whatever, make sure it's all prayer. Pray when you arrive, pray while you're on the way; with all your being and doing, always and forever, pray. © 2017 Todd Jenkins