To say it casts itself, like fisherfolk with their nets, is as apt a description as I can render. Only there are no holes to let light through, only thick, suffocating, blanket-like heaviness to trap you underwater. No one knows where it comes from or how it chooses to settle on you and not a stranger whose flailing would barely create a noticeable tremor in our web. Clinicians speak of perfect storms and chemical imbalances -- the likes of hail and hell you wish and pray were completely beyond conjuring. When the darkness falls heaviest, and your ears and heart begin to funnel words into ever-shrinking strings, let these be the ones sinking all the way to the bottom of your soul, to a place where pain is held by love -- the only power strong enough to not let go: You are love with us. You are love with. You are love. You are. You. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
By memory we define ourselves; bits and pieces of days gone by, fed by stored mental photographs, watered by emotion's tears of both sorrow and joy at one and the same time. Through memory we anchor ourselves to pasts cringeworthy and exemplary at one and the same time. Growing memory, we construct ourselves into observers of each present moment, anchored by virtue's roots and rising above villain's graves at one and the same time. In sleeping memory, we dream ourselves into tomorrows, slogging through valleys of despair and wafting on currents of celestial breath at one and the same time. Searching for memory, we watch loved ones lose bits and pieces of their story, lamenting fragments faded long-past sepia and rejoicing in brief flashes of love and cognizance at one and the same time. In memory we hallow special days, honoring so many brave ones who've sacrificed and pushing back against the hell of war's existence at one and the same time. Resurrecting memory, we weave a sacred response to grace's unfettered gift, lamenting all the times it steadily swirls around us unnoticed and praising Yahweh for the glimpses convincing us to dive in headlong at one and the same time. By memory we were and are and will continue to be held, when we've forgotten all and when we’ve remembered scarcely enough at one and the same time. Memory: our deepest curse and richest blessing at one and the same time. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
Fear divides, intent on conquering with its, “Vive la différence!” Love unites, earnestly calling us together, “Vive la similarité!” What matters is not the color of our skin, the roots of our faith, or the nation of our origin, but whether privilege can truly be acknowledged, voluntarily relinquished, and power bestowed with grace, so long-held shackles can be hammered into step-ladders of hope. It is past time for us to work better, together, nourishing and quenching a world hungry for dignity and thirsty for respect. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
“Observe the drama; don't be the drama.” On the beach, you can remove your sandals and walk parallel to the ocean, letting the waves lap at your feet when they're at their weakest – the turning point – just before the water's energy pulls it back toward the edge of earth and sky. The wet and not-wet, soft and firm sand at the edge of the tide is holy ground. Further inland, from which daily existence seems to call, it feels like burning bushes are more common, and our feet quickly begin to scorch as we are pulled from fire to fire. Fire-walkers will tell you that, even with seasoned soles, we must wait for the ash to form over the smoldering coals before we dare to pass over someone else's drama. I think this requires sitting and listening longer, moving and speaking less. Maybe it also requires love. Perhaps there is no true resurrection without love, because, sans the particularity of deep-marrow knowing and being known, bringing back people from the dead is a parlor trick at best, and Groundhog Day at worst, in which we have to suffer the same anonymous meaninglessness of life over and over, convinced that a single detail changed will somehow create a fairy tale life. Let us love deeply; deeper today than yesterday; deeper tomorrow than today; deeper giving than we've received; deeper from the tomb than we can imagine escaping. Yes, deeply, for this is how we find ourselves being raised out of that which never really approached life anyway. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
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
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.
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.
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
Painting 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
When your heart flutters for the plight of some other species, when your wallet falls readily open for helpless and abused animals, by all means, give of yourself in ways promising to make the world more whole. And when your breathing levels out again, giving you opportunity for reflection, ask yourself how you might interpolate such far-flung love to those whose DNA and messy life are intertwined with, if not strangling your own. Love, however it begins, whether near or far, is the creature for and in whom we exist. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
They don't even have to be from the same bird. They just stick together, hanging on to one another, and to us, like a staticky sliver of cellophane or an indomitable piece of tape. There is but one way – one place – to rid ourselves of them, yours, mine, theirs: the strong but tender hand of the divine self. It waits, open, patiently, for us to release our strangle on all that is not grace, all that conjures not love, whether it emanates from us or others. See us standing there, our tiny fists death-gripped around them? We are convinced the sticky wad is solely constructed of sleights and slices from the malice of others, personally aimed at us. What we cannot see is the way our refusal to release them attracts our own faults into the same gooey bundle; how our failure to let go of pain that has come at us causes us to also keep the suffering coming from within us. When Jesus cautions us, "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:23), he's trying to help us see that letting go of past hurts is the only path to avoiding the retentive edema and grudging pock of vengefulness. Filtering the faults of others before they reach the healing flow of Forgiveness Falls causes us to miss the redemptive wash for our own failings. Let it go. Let it flow. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
(Here’s a throwback from 3 years ago.) The season of Epiphany unfolds on us – maybe even in us – every year. It is not lost on me that it follows immediately after the paradoxical stress (including the inability to endure, much less champion, the Christmas spirit for more than a few minutes at a time) and release (“Send ’em all home before we all fall apart!”) of Christmas. The manger is continually shadowed by the cross.
Photo by Owen Jenkins
Was Jesus born on hospice care, propelled toward his earthly demise from the moment Mary and Joseph unwrapped the magi's myrrh? Is that what incarnation – being in-the-flesh – is all about; preparing for death by learning how to live, and preparing for life by learning how to die? When my mother was on her death bed, with less than 24 hours left, brain tumor ravishing her body, we arrived home to find her asleep. She woke up and asked, in childlike innocence, “What have you been doing?” Answering from a place deeper than my 26 year-old self knew existed, I replied, “We’ve been playing at work.” Ever since that day, both haunted and propelled by the mystery of that exchange, I’ve caught glimpses of the hospice care with which my life's surrounded: love, support, and nurture that strengthen and encourage me to breathe deeply of each moment, savor people, treasure the journey, and give grace free flow to rush in and out of my broken places, washing fear and anxiety away. These are the gifts of the one who was calm and secure in both his going out and his coming in, inhaling death and exhaling life. © 2014 Todd Jenkins