Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Lifted Up

Often, I tell people that I will be "lifting them into God's presence" as a way of saying I will pray for them. It seems so trite to say that – like God would somehow be busy watching a basketball game and would not otherwise notice their angst.

I suppose what I mean is that I'm throwing my lot in with them in this conversation, opening myself to be shown where my role is. I'm honoring the threads that connect my life and heart with theirs. THAT's what I think happens when you chose to pray for somebody else's circumstances, whether we recognize it or not.

If we told people that, about what prayer is and does, I wonder if some of them would stop doing it so much, or at least think long and hard before saying that they are doing it.

What do you think?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Monday, March 2, 2015

Inside Out

You, O Lord, are the one
who created us,
inside and out;

the one who has numbered
not just the hairs on our heads,
but also every cell in our bodies.

You are also the creator
of doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists,
and all medical support staff,
with their wisdom,
experience, and tools.

Throughout these days to come,
we pray that you, O God,
will keep us all
in your strong but tender hand,
and under the watchful eye
of your steadfast love.

And for those who wait and pray,
we ask that you would cover us
with your peace that passes understanding;
through Jesus Christ
the great physician we pray. Amen.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rising Flood

Jeremiah 6:14 (MSG)
My people are broken—shattered!—
    and they put on Band-Aids,
Saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.’
    But things are not ‘just fine’!
 
Camp NaCoMe's Upper Lake
Rising Flood

Outrage's anger causes
her to rise every time
a crime is committed.

Justice's wheels, when they
roll down a path of fairness,
have a way of coaxing her
back into her seat;

but when those wheels become
a grindstone that obliterates
any possibility for hopeful journey,
she will not stand down,
come hell, high, or any other water.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Long Shot

It was a long shot; not impossible, but pretty impressive; 447 yards, according to the range-finder. There was a significant breeze, blowing from who-knows-where, for which he had to account. Once she was squarely in the crosshairs, he took two deep breaths, slowly but steadily pursing the second one between his lips.

It seemed like the trigger action was at least three inches long. He was sure she would spook before the powder explosion could push the lead through the barrel and across the chasm that separated them. He swallowed as hard as he could, certain that anything less vigorous would have resulted in him choking on his own heart.

She dropped instantly, giving up the ghost almost before her head bounced off the ground. He raced toward his prey, first sliding down one side of the canyon, then struggling up the other. By the time he reached her, his heart felt like it would leap from his throat again, this time from anaerobic shock.

Five more minutes passed before he could think and breathe at the same time. He took the selfie-stick out of his backpack and attached his phone to it for the first time. The first few attempts were blurry, partly because he was in such a hurry that autofocus didn't have time to adjust, and partly because his hands were still trembling.

When he finally got the shot he wanted, he uploaded it to hootsuite, so that it could be uniformly spread on all his social media platforms at just the right time. He struggled to compose the perfect text to accompany the photo, uncharacteristically  at a loss for words. Finally, inspiration came:

"I've pursued her relentlessly through the wilderness for nearly 40 days. At several points, I almost convinced myself that she didn't exist, but I had to be sure."

The picture's caption simply read: Certitude has finally killed Faith.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, February 27, 2015

27¢ part 2

Here’s how the first night’s dream began. I didn’t remember this part until I dreamed it again the second night. The doorbell rang in the middle of the day. My first thought was, “I don’t care what you’re selling. I’m not interested!”

The house was a wreck, as if an epic struggle had taken place and no one bothered to straighten up. I unlocked and opened the door. He just stood there, smiling; no product, no pitch, just a smile. He didn’t have a name badge either, but I knew who he was. I knew because I’ve never been looked at like this before. It wasn’t so much being looked “at” as it was being seen into.

I’ve had people see into me before, but not like this. When others have seen below the surface, their instinct has been recoil. No matter what their mouths say, if you look in their eyes, you see the retreat. Not this one.

In fact, it felt like we were falling into one another; like this being seen – this being known – was an invitation to cease all pretending. I could tell it would have been futile. I felt like a lion tamer hiding a big steak behind my back.

That’s when I started to scramble. My litany of “If onlys” went into overdrive. “If only I’d known you were coming today: I could have finished that DIY den renovation and we would have had a lovely place to visit; I would have prepared Pinterest-worthy hors d’oeuvres to pull out of the oven; I could have read a daily Lenten devotional, so we could discuss it together; or I could have prayed the newspaper, cementing my solidarity with all who have the boot of oppression/injustice on their neck; I would have shaved and put on my best salvage-chic for you.”

I wanted to ask if you’d come back in a few months, or at least tomorrow, so that I could prepare for your arrival. But your eyes said, “Today is the day; now is the time.” Seeing that you weren’t going to give up, I invited you in. As we slowly walked toward the kitchen, I silently rehearsed all of my excuses. “I’m not worthy to be called your child. I’ve wasted so much of that with which you have gifted me…”

Before I could squeeze the first phrase from my lips, you grabbed me and hugged me. I felt the waterfall release, first from my own eyes, down your back; then your own, down mine. I couldn’t tell which of us was holding on more tightly. All I knew is that I never wanted to let go.

Through the veil of tears, I caught a glimpse of my son at the top of the stairs. He was smiling, and then turned to go to his room. A minute or so later, he was bounding down the stairs with one fist clenched.

That’s how the two dimes, one nickel, and two pennies arrived for their dance on the counter. There were no words, at least not out loud. It was as if our hearts suddenly remembered a language all their own; a language I couldn’t remember ever knowing.

Even though my son still seemed to know the language, there were some things he hadn’t yet understood. He was speaking with his heart, but the accents of economy and empire were unmistakable. He may not have known the word "transaction", but he was fully aware of how things worked. Or so he thought.

There was no transaction, at least none in which we could play a part. The rhythm of my heart hesitantly fluttered-out a new word: transformation. We tried it on for size, my son and I, both of us wallowing around inside it like children in their parents’ dress-up clothes. There was no way we could fill it out – at least not now – but it rested well on us in spite of its roominess.

A larger heart percussed a brief message, vibrating us to the core, “It’s a gift, this grace, and all you can do is pay it forward with all that you have, and all that you are, even if it’s 27¢ at a time.” 

This is the thing that God does every day, right before our eyes, whether we are paying attention or not, so we might as well watch.
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

© 2015 Todd Jenkins 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

27¢ part 1

Did you ever have a story run through you that was completely out of your control? It feels like I’m trying to dry my hair in a wind tunnel. Hang on!

It was the second Thursday in Lent. I know that only because a daily devotional I read on social media identifies each day that way. I’m quite sure I couldn’t do that myself. By the third Tuesday in Lent, I’d be so confused I’d already be in the upper room, wondering why Jesus and the disciples hadn’t shown up. I might, even if only for and instant, wonder if I’d been left behind.

My son walked in and plopped two dimes, a nickel, and two pennies that looked like they’ve been through Hell on the counter. Not the run-over-by-a-train kind of Hell that kids sometimes do to coins; but more like a dragged through the coarsest pockets in the roughest places on earth kind of Hell.

My son is 22 years old now, but here he was much younger. He was at that age where truth not only comes out of your mouth naturally, but it also flows from your eyes, your hands, and even your heart, without you even trying. Not that he doesn’t tell the truth now, but this was before he learned how the truth opens windows, and before he saw how doors were closed by falsehood.

This was the age when truth came naturally. If you can’t remember that age, for yourself or even for children in a younger generation, you should find a way to hang out with little people whose truth-telling has not been pruned by ego; people who have not yet learned how to calculate their words. The simple truth, reflected in his eyes and heart, was that he expected this 27¢ to pay for everything; to change the world.

The counter onto which the coins rolled and settled from his hand was marble; a milky white with brown streaks that could have been warm strands of caramel stirred through hot milk. The coins made a kind of music and did their own dance, before prostrating themselves in silence.

I had no idea what was coming next, but the truth that was emanating from his whole body spoke clearly to me: “God is going to do something right before your eyes, whether you are paying attention or not, so you might as well watch.” That’s what the name of the story should be, but whoever heard of such a rambling name for a short story?

How could anyone expect five small coins to change anything? I’ll tell you how: because it was all he had, and he knew that whatever he had was enough.

That’s your truth for today: it's all I have, and I know that whatever I have is enough. Take this with you today and speak it – if not with your lips, at least with your heart – into every circumstance of your life. You do that, and I’ll go back to sleep again tonight, in hopes of dreaming the rest of this story.
 
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sooner

Hell's hand basket arrives
sooner and with greater vengeance
as we continue to use
religion to justify political action
instead of to critique it.

The Hebrew scriptures' lessons
go largely unheeded,
as the potential
for prophetic voices is silenced
by absorption into the process.

Power's aphrodisiac
will not be overcome
so long as the prophet's paycheck 
is cut in the royal vault.

Where are the houses
of worship that dare
to listen for a voice crying
in the wilderness; a call
to exchange violence and oppression
for honest dialogue and dignity?



© 2015 Todd Jenkins