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
We thought that accumulating a treasury of resources, regardless of the cost to others and to the planet, would somehow soothe the hunger in our souls. What we failed to recognize was the depth of need in our marrow, and the reality that this ravenous maw’s desire could only be satisfied by listening to and integrating the narratives of other people into our own stories. Thus, the hospitality of open ears and hearts becomes the divine gift through which lives are intertwined, famine is abated, and the cosmos’ heartbeat is extended. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Laughter and crying are at opposite ends of a spectrum both of whose extremities are incredulity. The former, buoyed by possibility; the latter, weighed down with dread. The line between them is neither straight, nor two-dimensional, but curved, spherical. When they back up to one another, on the shadowed side of our universe, we sometimes say we’re laughing to keep from crying. That’s when fear and hope are grappling for our soul; when we can’t yet discern whether the burgeoning light rising over the eastern mountains is another raging dumpster fire, the torching of a chaparral called home, or the hopeward resurrection of the morning sun. Keep wrestling, mi amigos; the light is on your side. © 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
Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins
Our Invitation to the Table at FPC Greeneville, TN, on November 11, 2018, tying together Mark 12:38-44 (exposing the scribes’ power mongering and the widow’s mite) and the Table.
Yes, I, too, thought this was about the propagation of a — if not THE — divine attribute; specifically about how I was called to participate in sacred — if not holy — ways, in slathering divine beauty all over the global landscape; until she conjured up Eucharistic images, and even snapshots of everyday tables (which are, by the way, anything but ordinary) to which I have been invited: ones where bread and wine have been prepared, ones where love and forgiveness have been dared, ones where grace and mercy have been shared. That’s where I began to see how little of this is about my worshipful mind and the sacred music I sing, and how much of it’s about when and where I’m kind, and the hope I reflect and bring; and how often I miss its rich nutritional feast by overlooking the outcast and the least; and when I gorge and stuff, how the processed junk is never enough. And there before us rests glory’s spread, at table where Christ is sacred head; meal not so rich with scarcity’s gap, as fullness poured into each lap; always room for one more there; help your neighbor pull up a chair. We’re all invited as we’re able; one and all, come to the table! © 2018 Todd Jenkins
I can’t remember the exact year in school when my teacher introduced the concept of division. I do remember, however, that it was always about things — apples, cookies, toys — and never about people; a mathematical tool for equally parceling out specific things: Your mom cooked 72 Halloween cookies for you to share at school. You have 24 students in your class. How many cookies should each student receive? There was never a word problem that required dividing people; never a question like: Of the 24 students in your class, 18 are from Christian families whose parents were born in the USA, and whose racial identity is white. The remainder are of other religions, and/or were born of foreign citizens, and/or are of another ethnicity. Of what fraction/percentage of your classmates should you be afraid? Nope. I never learned to divide people. In fact, my faith guides me to add them: You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. You shall not abuse any widow or orphan. (Exodus 22:21-22) “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37) ... you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) This is God’s people-math. © 2018 Todd Jenkins