I didn’t want to say the words this year. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” kept asking to be transposed with something more honest, like, “You were in high school this morning, future slowly unfolding; but now your blood is pooled on the ground, your organs motionless, your body lifeless, your family screaming a caustic cocktail of rage and grief, cameras intruding like uninhibited perverts.” How dare we regurgitate a vacuous litany propped up on flimsy thoughts and prayers! If we can’t be honest, and say we’re not willing to change anything to slow the parade of body bags, then we need to just keep our damn mouths shut, hunkered down behind the walls of our callous indifference. Who will compose a liturgy of lament? Who will sit in this bend of hell’s river, sieve net in hand, scooping the shrapnel-torn fragments of hope as they drift toward the abyss? Answer me! © 2018 Todd Jenkins
Our prayers rise on your behalf, lifting you into the presence of the Great Physician: Behold your precious child, O God; one created in your image and filled with your reflection. Grant that the medical team may continue to act with wisdom, compassion, and understanding, so that the journey along the road to recovery may be bearable and dotted with respites and oases giving breathing room. Grant an awakening each day with enough courage to climb out of bed, enough strength to shuffle forward, and enough hope to lift eyes to the rising sun. Grant that caretakers and family may discern when to push and when to hold, when to cry and when to laugh, when to speak and when to sit in silence. These and all prayers we waft in the name of him whose robe hem sparkled with life itself, Jesus the Christ. Amen. © 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
More than a dozen years ago, as a friend’s dad faced chemotherapy, I envisioned and wrote about this scene:
I see him standing on a stormy beach. It is a place he’s been before. The waves are tall, strong, and fast. Sand is washing out from under his feet. Anxiety is, understandably, rising with the tide. I also see a strong, enormous hand scooping him up and holding him safely. Where the receding sand washed away, large foundation stones are moved into place. The cornerstone has a familiar look and scent; the look of compassion and the scent of love. When the foundation is secure, the protective hand sets him back down onto the rocks. May Christ be for you all, and may he give you each the hope, strength, and courage to be for one another, pillars of hope and foundations of comfort during the raging storm of chemotherapy. © 2018 Todd Jenkins
For a weakened heart we intercede, O Lord. May it be like electricity in an old house, steadily pumping current, whether all the wires are firmly connected or not. For fragile lungs we intercede, O breath of wind and spirit. May they function like an HVAC system of an historic structure, pumping air, in spite of cracked and leaky ductwork. For struggling kidneys, we intercede, O God. May they be like plumbing in a long-lived-in home, steadfastly moving water and waste, despite occasionally-leaking joints and fixtures. Keep this house in order, O holy one, with all the wisdom, compassion, and understanding that the medical community can bluster, while we pray with all the hope we can muster. Amen. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Anne Shurley
Our traditional positioning for prayer has hands palm-to-palm, fingers aimed skyward, as if we arc our words — and maybe our hearts — heavenward, to pierce the skies with intercession on behalf of others and self, aiming plaintive and joyous arrows into the Divine throne room. Today, however, I am drawn to a different manual posture: palms up, cupped, side by side, as if I am holding loved ones up closer to my heart, but still clearly on cosmic display, a reminder of our specific brokenness and a request for holy healing; also as if crystal water were being poured into my hands — if not my soul — refreshing us in all our parched places. Fill us with your grace, O holy one. © 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
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
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
What's it like to have a hurricane named after you; your own moniker attached to a high velocity wall of hydro destruction? Do you wish the random generator of tropical storm names had passed you by, the same way the lottery ticket gods have done for generations of desperate hopers? Do you take it upon yourself to stand up for those in harm's way, as if you've been singled out, personally, to rail toward the heavens with pleas of mercy and deliverance, willing their protection with each breath you take? Maybe, even when our name hasn't been broadcast, we can act and pray as if it has, for no other reason than the shared humanity of our beating hearts. Lord, send your angels… © 2017 Todd Jenkins