Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Light

On this end of the blue sphere
December is the time when
big ball of light’s angle and duration
are fading fast and furious
as if it just might fizzle out for good.

Fine time indeed to light
an additional candle each Sunday,
reminding ourselves of the in-the-flesh
arrival of the very self of God in
the gospel birth of Bethlehem babe.

As you wend your way through
another holiday season this year,
adding lights at every turn,
may you find it in your heart and mind
to keep them burning year-round.

If the neighbors and their association
keep you from doing it literally,
I hope you’ll still conspire to
keep them burning in your life.
Every month needs Christmas light!

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Monday, December 20, 2010

Genuine Hope

Quote from the Jan/Feb 2006 issue of “Weavings”:
“To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom.” (Mark 4:11) In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung comments that the world will ask you who you are, and if you do not have an answer the world will give you one. Jung understands that the world is impatient with mystery because mystery lies beyond the world’s control. Faced with true mystery, the world will impose answers or contrive confusion, neither of which can bear the weight of genuine hope. Children of God, on the other hand, are stewards of mystery. We dwell gently with it, not so much to search for answers as to be transformed by questions that open onto eternity. We embrace a lifelong movement from immersion in the opaque mystifications of the world to immersion in the luminous mystery of God’s reign. (Written by John S. Mogabgab, in “Editors Introduction.”)

Advent—that season of preparation for the arrival of God’s Christmas gift—is about remembering that our task is to “bear genuine hope.” We don’t have to figure out the mystery of Christmas in order to bear genuine hope. In fact, many would argue that insistence on solving the mystery is precisely what prevents many in the church from finding hope at all. We are better detectives than we are witnesses.

As witnesses, our egos and our intellects wish for us to have seen and understood more than we do. In the “court of faith” the divine defense attorney would certainly object to the conjecture and conclusions toward which we jump. It is very hard for us to say, “I can’t explain how it works, and I haven’t seen it all. All I know is that the promise has been made, the gift given, and nothing else will ever be the same.” Most of the time, we are more comfortable solving faith than we are living it.

“Genuine hope” is not built on understanding and reasonable conclusions. It comes from wide-eyed encounters with divine mystery, often-desperate confidence in future promises, and a willingness to take one step at a time into darkness, before light appears. It is neither for the faint-hearted nor the self-controlled. It lights in the palm of those whose hands dare to remain open.

P.S. The bluebird photo is from a friend, Carole Knight; a photo of "Little Missy" from last spring.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Music and God

Music is an essential part of most faith communities’ worship; whether it is generated by the human voice alone, a single instrument like piano or organ, or a plethoric blend of many instruments and musicians. Though form, instrumentation, and execution may be the single issue around which the most passionate worship arguments erupt, we can all generally agree that worship wouldn’t be the same without some form of music.

Music even transcends the limitations of human language’s barrier. The young shepherd, David, soothed the angry and deranged psyche of King Saul, if only for a while, with his instrumental interludes. History records more than one instance where, at Christmas, warring troops laid down their weapons and picked up their instruments in order to share their common musical bond. If the concert had continued, perhaps the conflict would have had no choice but to cease.

I've thought, more and more over the years, that music is a near-perfect metaphor for Godness, and one of the most valuable tools in expanding the human-divine conduit. Think about it. Music has a nearly-unlimited variety of combinations, including the range beyond human perception where we have to rely on our animal friends for recognition & interpretation. The vilest dis-chord can, through the ear and hands of skilled composer and musician, be resolved miraculously into breathtaking and melodious finale.

I could go on, but I suspect that trained musicians could do so more effectively, as all I really understand is that the pitch goes up & down to match the rise & fall of the differently shaded and appendaged little circles on the staff. Maybe that's another one of music's miracles - that a simpleton like me can appreciate & absorb so much from it despite my complete ignorance of its intricacies.

Play on! Sing on! God on!

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


O, the emotional fire we log,
when into our lives we weave a dog.
Frontwards, backwards, from dog to God,
we learned of love on this path we trod.

Unconditional grace outpoured;
lives of abundant joy restored.
Learning to share, give, sit, and wait
from our dog’s life we extrapolate.

Life’s limits often catch us unaware,
grief’s pall spreads pain everywhere.
Telling the story, reliving the years,
helps to assuage the flowing tears.

Thanks be to God for the time we had;
short as it was, it made us glad.
Give us the courage to see good greater,
and do it again, sooner not later.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mosaic Faith

(Originally published in First Presbyterian Church Fayetteville TN’s P&P on March 19, 2002, which means you’ll need a time machine to actually visit the store and table described below.)

In a gift shop on the square (Grapevine Art & Glass), there is a unique table that fascinates me. Underneath its exterior, the table is of good quality, though fairly ordinary. It is what Sue Tiekling—the artist—has done with the top of it that makes it unique.

In a kind of mosaic style, Sue has taken broken pieces of Noritake china and formed a thing of beauty. The tabletop’s border consists of inlaid pieces from the gold edging of the plates. In the center, she has taken broken pieces from the middle of the plates and formed beautiful mosaic patterns. Each piece shows a fragment of the china plate’s original design, but together, they form a new design all their own.

I’m not working on commission, either for the Grapevine or for Mrs. Tielking, but I would recommend going to see it, if for no other reason than the fact that my description of the table is very inadequate. When you look at it, I want you to think about your life. Think about how your life could be compared to that table. Underneath it all, most of us live ordinary lives. But often, unbeknownst to us, God is at work doing extraordinary things in and through us that we do not immediately recognize.

When the fine china dreams that we have built for ourselves are cracked and broken by events beyond our control—when life’s chaos swirls around us and shatters the patterns around which we’ve built our lives—God can take the broken pieces and rework them into a mosaic that has a beauty and a function beyond what we ever dreamed. It won’t be the same plate, or the same dream, but it can become a beautiful work of art nonetheless.

Sometimes I think we hinder God’s transformative work by holding on to the broken pieces of our lives in a futile attempt to clumsily reconstruct our dreams, making a glue-covered mess that has no purpose or usefulness. Other times we quickly and thoughtlessly jettison the broken pieces, sure that they will never be useful again. All the while, God is waiting for us to let go of them, or may even have to salvage them from the trash, so that we can be shown the path to “a more excellent way.”

Check your life’s china dream cabinet to see if there are some broken pieces that you can begin to let go of. Look through your life’s garbage, in search of discarded and broken dreams to see if they might be offered up to the power and transcendent grace of God. You never know when and how the beauty of Noritake dreams might easter-up from our brokenness.

© 2002 Todd Jenkins

Monday, October 18, 2010

Week Found

I found a week twice this week
but didn’t know what to do with it.
I didn’t really find a week,
but it sure felt like it,
when I believed on two separate occasions
that scheduled events and due dates had arrived,
only to find out a short time later that
I had a week’s reprieve for them both.

When I lose a week,
which happens much more often,
I sometimes wonder where it went.
I like to imagine that
I was abducted by aliens or some other
equally-dramatic scenario,
so that I don’t have to
take personal responsibility
for my calendar bulging like a three-day udder.

But when I find one,
which I can only remember happening recently,
what myth will help me explain this phenomenon?
What can I claim as the cause for a week found?

I know I didn’t do anything special
to deserve this bonus;
didn’t somehow save up some
chronographic karma
that suddenly paid dividends.

What will I do with this found week?
Is it like found money—
do I have a choice of splurging with it
or investing it wisely?
What would you do with a found week?

I ended up using it much like any other week,
but I think I enjoyed it a little more;
savored its days, hours, minutes more deliciously,
simply because I realized that,
if only in my mind and for a brief while,
I nearly lost it before I ever had a chance to taste it.

Cheers to a found week,
to the grace of living all over again,
even if it’s really only once,
a week that almost disappeared!

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Friday, October 15, 2010

We Are Falcons!

We are Falcons
from Lincoln County High!
We’ll always be Falcons
until the day we die!

When the sun goes down,
and the air is chilled,
we strap it on & buckle up
as the Pit is filled!

From the first kick-off
‘til the final whistle blows,
our hard work and
our teamwork shows!

Falcon fever pitch,
rising higher and higher!
We’ll rock your world!
We’ll burn you like fire!

We let our game be
the walk that we walk!
We let the score be
the smack that we talk!

We'll knock you on your butt!
We'll leave you in the dust!
When the final whistle blows,
you will respect us!

We are Falcons
from Lincoln County High!
We’ll always be Falcons
until the day we die!

Friday, September 24, 2010


This past Sunday’s sermon was not only about prayer, it was prayer. We could preach about prayer 52 Sundays a year and never come close to covering all of its aspects. We could pray 24/7 and never finish. Someone once said,” Prayer is not what we do, it is who we are.”

Some people are bothered by the notion that prayer or, as in the case of Hebrew [OT] scripture stories, conversation with God changes God’s mind (Genesis 18:22ff; Exodus 32:14). Others are quite convinced of and comfortable with the notion that God’s actions are tied directly to people’s prayers (Matthew 21:21-22). I know that:
• Prayer makes a difference in mine and others’ lives;
• Prayer makes me more attentive to the work of God in the world and in my life;
• Prayer is about reinforcing my trust in God;
• Though I don’t fully understand the “how” of prayer’s efficacy (Does it change me only, or also God?), I still practice it, in the similar way that I use a microwave even though I do not fully understand nuclear science.

Here are some other thoughts on prayer from C.S. Lewis:

“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me."

"Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another...Ten-thirty-- and every other moment from the beginning of the world--is always Present for Him. If you like to put it this way, He has all eternity in which to listen to
the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames."

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where's the Grace in THAT?

I tried not to proof-text my sermon too much this week, but the Pharisees (Luke 15:1-10), who grumble that Jesus “eats with tax collectors and sinners”, seemed to be tailor-made for the “Dove World Outreach Church Media Frenzy” of this past week. I’m guessing that Terry Jones is oblivious to the irony that he is a prime example of how ridiculous and dangerous it is to generalize and stereotype an entire faith by the actions of a handful of extremists who claim to be acting on that faith’s principles.

I don’t recall Jesus burning the Torah, as a way to spread the gospel message. When I contemplated the possible burning of the Qu’ran, Islam’s holy book, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Where’s the grace in that?”

A pastor friend shared a story about C. S. Lewis, who was once asked to settle a scholars’ debate about the most unique characteristic of Christianity. Lewis is reported to have said, “It’s grace.” God’s love is “string-free” and not dependent on our goodness, wisdom, actions, or anything else related to who we are or what we’ve done.

That’s a very powerful characteristic, but also one that challenges us. When we are on the receiving end of grace (like the 1 sheep of 99 and the 1 coin of 10 in Jesus’ parable), it is a wonderfully unimaginable gift, and we are deeply grateful for grace’s great-reversal of the “less-than” sign (Remember your math class?) that the world aims at our life. When we are called to give it, however (especially to someone who has hurt us), it is a little bit more difficult to swallow.

Some moments we find ourselves square in the middle of Pharisee Street, grumbling about grace’s long reach and compassion, convincing ourselves that we are good enough to be judged by law, instead. Other times we are well aware that we are the one sheep of ninety-nine in desperate need of grace. In many situations we find ourselves among the ninety-nine, wondering whether another “one sheep” is worth it.

Our congregation’s vision, adopted by the Session, prominently displayed on our church sign (the last frame in the video), and the primary tool by which we attempt to measure all our endeavors is, “Reveal God’s grace now and to all generations forevermore.”

If you are interested in a visual and audio reflection on this, which I used as the final illustration in our TouchPoint Worship Service, check out the YouTube video I posted. I would put a direct link in the blog, but I can't figure out how to do so, even though there is an "Insert Link" button right in front of my face. Isn't technology wonderful?

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mom the Invincible

This was written for a friend's mom who recently underwent a "medical procedure."

At her age it surely seems
“the I’s” her middle name.
From everlasting she has been
to endless years the same.

The Dr. says it is only
a simple procedure,
but when it is your mom at risk
you want to be quite sure.

I know she’s not invincible
and surely, so does she.
So, hold her in your palm dear God,
she means the world to me.


© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ordinary Ministry

We work, play, and casually interact with people every day who have unspeakable tragedy lurking just beneath the surface of their lives. Sometimes we’re on the other end and the tragedy is our own. Most of the time there's no longer a visible indication of this suffering but, occasionally (more often than we probably realize), there are "thin places" where the fresh coat of "normal" does not completely hide what has been buried in the shallow ground.

We stub our metaphorical toe on another’s invisible pain. We accidentally rake across non-sequiturs of rage, anger, or shock. Momentary silence creates a complete change of subject. Punctuation’s pause opens the door to overflowing catacombs of emotion.

Pay attention! These are the places where we can rise to the occasion and be fully present. These are the times for which we are created. These are the experiences by which, if we can resist the reflex of withdrawal, we are warmed by love and soldered together by God’s healing touch. These are the foundational blocks of the priesthood of all believers. These are the blessed sacraments of ordinary ministry.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Puzzle's Pieces

Summer's been hot and dry, not just on the outside, though I've collected a few moist towelettes for future use. Here's one from a few weeks ago:

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. John 3:34

“God has a plan” we’re told
at every twist and turn.
When I stop to look and listen
I sometimes catch a glimpse.

Not enough to figure out
why our lives are full of hurt,
much less the way things
are working together and out.

Six billion is the last number
I heard used to name the count
of earth’s people currently alive,
so maybe we’re all part of a puzzle

with that many pieces to fit together.
This doesn’t even begin to include
all those who’ve passed before us:
pieces of the communion of saints.

But since we’re being honest here,
which poetry has a way of doing
with few words to hide behind
and truth erupting from its vast blank space,

I must confess that most of the time
I find myself imagining a much smaller puzzle,
a 10 or 20 piece version whose box reads,
“Six months to one year.”

Is that how long it’ll take me to finish,
or how old (mature?) I’m acting,
or the limits of my vision?
Some days it seems like all three.

In this much smaller puzzle, of course,
as intimate and manageable as it is,
I am always the central, most important piece,
in the same way that channelers

always reach back into our past
and find that, once upon a time,
we were, of course, royalty,
and never lower-caste peasants.

But as the universe’s true size and age
sink into my dense gray matter,
I sometimes ponder its enormity
that might as well be infinity.

Suppose I am merely—
and I say merely because
I’m thinking small and selfishly again—
a tiny piece of gorgeous blue sky

that fits into a few million other blues
to reflect the absolute beauty
of a single snapshot in time,
captured on an artist’s canvas?

How many times do you think
that eyes roll and sighs flow from God,
exasperated that I’m looking to become
anything and everything except

the very thing for which I was created?
Not that my piece of the puzzle
is not placed in a single right location—
the only spot that it correctly fits—

but that I refuse altogether
to let it fit in any of the many places
it might have twisted and clicked
to fit a hole in the universe’s scheme

that my absence makes so obvious.
On my computer the other day
I saw an image that, from far away,
looked like nothing more

than a single, familiar celebrity’s face.
But when I clicked on any given spot
I zoomed in to find that each pixel patch
was actually composed of many other faces.

Funny how easily we can be convinced
by fear, anxiety, envy and control,
that our own comfortable little perspective
must be THE true universal reality.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 3 Rs

In Sunday worship, or at the start of a church event, when you hear prayer concerns offered, you heard the tip of the iceberg that comprises a pastor’s life. The weight of all the information and concerns that I hear on a weekly basis concerning not just church members, but also community members and family members (yours and my own) is like steady snowfall on a roof. Each flake, each layer, doesn’t seem like much by itself. But over time, they accumulate and produce a weight that is capable of crushing even the strongest joists.

In a perfect world, a perfect pastor would be able to pass all those concerns directly to God and never bear the weight of anxiety, never feel the pressure of answers’ absence, never hold onto the helplessness of not being able to “fix” all of our problems. Those two perfections have completely passed me by. I am who I am, where I am, doing and being what I know and can.

In a world that is far more comfortable with and capable of measuring “do” than “be” my role is often to practice and mirror the lesser and the less precise. That’s where “The Refreshment of the 3 Rs” comes in. Beyond my own practice of prayer and worship (not on Sunday morning), there are three other things I do in order to survive. To relieve the stress, pressure, and depression of my inability to let go of our collective angst and my immersion in the personal lives of all the people who trust me with their pain—I do these three things: Read, Write, and Run.

I don’t just read theology or church books. I read novels and comedy; things that let me escape for a while to subconsciously process my own thoughts and feelings. I write stories and poetry/prayers, all of which not only give me a chance to see what’s lurking deep in my head and heart, but also help me let go of that swirling grief and anxiety. Hence, this very piece is a part of that catharsis.

I run because it gives me a built-in time frame for organizing thoughts, words, and conversations. When I come to a steep hill, I forget the additional incline-induced strain on my overweight 50 year old body by forming and reforming the words of my next sermon, prayer, or poem as I trudge upward. So, when you see or hear of me plodding along the roads or trails of Lincoln County, know that there’s more than meets the eye going on out there. It’s life, it’s hope, it’s healing. Now you know.

The Baseball Booster Club asked to “borrow my voice” for their “Senior Day” pre-game festivities and announcing of the season’s final home game. I count it an honor and a privilege to take part in this. There’s a different kind of healing that happens here, as I think back on my “Glory Days” such as they were, and reflect forward on the hopes and dreams of our community’s future leaders. I heard a preacher recently say, “The church exists at the intersection of memory and hope.” If that’s the case, and I believe it is, then events like “Senior Day” and graduations are as much church as anything we do on a Sunday morning.

Despite my dismal record last season (3-7), I have been “re-hired” as the pre-game motivational speaker for the LCHS football team this year. I think you’d have to have been part of an adolescent team of some sort to understand how this kind of privilege impacts your life. Whether or not we pray, read scripture, or mention God at all, I believe what I do on Friday afternoons in the locker room is an integral part of “being church.” I hope to see you somewhere out there, in all the different places where we all have opportunities to “be” church.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Monday, April 26, 2010

Left in the Lurch

Knowing reaches into the future.
Not as far as we’d like, but
something is better than nothing;
memory and hope must somehow intersect.

Information comes at us in fits and starts.
Life’s puzzle’s in infinite pieces;
doesn’t arrive all at once in a box;
sometimes we’re sure some major pieces are lost.

Good news sometimes, bad news others.
Mostly somewhere in between,
whose final determination must wait
for more time to pass, paths to cross.

It’s hurry up and wait most of the time,
arriving at a known milestone,
waiting for the journey’s next leg to appear:
“Recalculating” life’s operative word.

Memories not only of knowledge gained,
but also of futures planned,
sunsets and evenings, new days dawning,
all hang in the balance as earth and sky touch.

Hope: once simple, pure, and light;
now queasy from life’s roller coaster;
whole-grain heavy, fibrous husks and all;
certainly different but more substantial.

Feed us from the heart, O Lord,
of your promise lived-in-skin;
richness and depth of hope that is
broken-in and not just broken-down.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Monday, April 19, 2010

Church Again

When the work of doing church
Overcomes the gift of being church
There comes a time in every life

We organize and plan ourselves
Into a full-blown hurricane
Of meetings, measurements, and pain

Forgetting that we ever heard
The peaceful call of Jesus’ words:
“Come to me… and I will give you rest.”

O, how we long to once more feel
Joy of resting in God’s grace
Revel in sacred time and space

Receive again your invitation
Join the worshipful congregation
Let church be church’s gift to you

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bigger than That

Sometimes we have a difficult time connecting God with everyday life because of the limits of our understanding. Other times it is because of the limits of our expectation. A couple of Sundays ago, during worship, I experienced a little of both.

As you may know, we send a small gray duffle bag home with a different family at the end of worship each week. We ask them to put something in it and bring it back before worship the next week. During worship, Pastor Jessi or I open the bag and attempt to make a connection between its contents and the life of faith.

It looked like a large black and gray speckled rock that had been tumbled smooth from many years in a river bed. But it weighed only an ounce or two. It was about the size of those souvenir footballs the cheerleaders throw into the stands at football games. The ends were a bit more rounded than a football—more like a rugby ball—and there was a small hole at each end. I couldn’t tell if it was hollow or filled with something extremely lightweight.

My first guess was that it was a float for a trot line or crab trap. Finally I had to ask. “It’s an Emu egg,” I was told. An egg? Really? That big? I was so taken aback by the sheer size of this egg that my mind went blank. Had I not been so surprised that an egg could be that large, I could have made all sorts of connections between it and our faith practice. Between my surprise and the time it took to correctly identify the object, I failed to make any everyday life and faith connections.

That’s the way it is with God, sometimes. I get so comfortable with the little bit about God I think I’ve figured out that I don’t make room for any more. I’m not expecting and I don’t allow myself to imagine anything more. An old friend once told me, “Each time you think you’ve figured out what God can or will do, don’t forget: God is bigger than that.”

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Garden Prayer

Creation began in a garden, O God.
Resurrection did also.
And now we have taken
the blooming flowers of
our own and other gardens
and placed them on a cross
to remind us that we are all your gardeners.

We dig with our hands,
we plant in our hearts;
we water with our tears.
We wait for life to scatter
its unfragrant fertilizer, its refuse.

We wait for you to send your Son.
And new life is raised up;
raised up in places we had given up for dead;
raised up in places we didn’t know existed;
raised up in lives we wouldn’t have
given you two cents for.

You’ve heard us speak the names
and verbalize the circumstances
that frighten us most;
the people and places where
resurrection hope is sorely needed.

Show us this day, and
every day of our lives,
glimpses of your
unimaginable resurrection power,
that we may live as
fully Eastered people;
that we may reveal your grace
to all generations now and forevermore. Amen.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Where does it end
and something else begin?
And just what might
that something else be?

Courage: the power within
to face insurmountable odds
as if the odds don’t matter,
because they really don’t.

It doesn’t banish fear at all,
just keeps it in perspective;
ratcheting-up the power
of promise and possibility.

When others’ feelings are
of more concern than our own,
and a bigger picture is in focus,
courage is in the neighborhood.

In those deep-soaked,
courage doesn’t fade at the end;
it metamorphoses into
its silent sister, Hope.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tender Hands

(For all those who have been
knocked down too hard & often.)

Tender is a relative word;
depending on the subject,
depending on your situation,
depending on your expectation.

A farmer’s tender hands
can gently coax life from a crop
but you wouldn’t expect
to mistake them for silk.

A loved one’s tender hands
express love’s fragile emotions
whether they are sandpaper coarse
or Shea Butter smooth.

And then there’s God,
to whom we often attribute
anthropomorphic digits and extremities,
always expecting utmost tenderness.

Problem is, there are too many times
when our expectations come
face to face with life’s circumstances
that have run roughshod over us.

This we ask, beg, pray, dear Lord:
When life throws us under the bus,
let us firmly, clearly feel the touch
of your strong and tender hands,
in every hug, smile, tear, word, meal.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Faith Factor

The television drama (There’s nothing remotely connecting it to “reality”, so I refuse to use that term.) “Fear Factor” has been on for years. I’ve only watched brief segments of the show as I surf the cable airwaves for worthwhile distraction. The show seems to be a competition to see which contestant is able to most quickly and completely navigate an obstacle course filled with fear-inducing animals or activities.

Our culture is filled with “Fear Factor” mentality. We are constantly warned that:
• what we have could be stolen or damaged;
• we don’t have the “right” (translated: expensive) or enough things;
• our children will be at a disadvantage if we don’t purchase them enough things or involve them in ALL the “right” activities;
• someone hates us and is out to destroy us, so we must practice preemptive hate to protect ourselves;
• there’s never enough, and we should hoard and protect all that we have.

The Sunday morning (and other days/times) gathering of Church is to declare an alternative reality. This other reality begins with the outrageous notion that all of creation belongs to God. As long as we speak in general terms, this isn’t too outrageous a claim. The universe is massive and, even collectively, humanity can hardly fool itself into claiming ownership of such vastness. It’s when we take it personally that things become difficult.

There is an old joke about two poor farmers who are sitting around the fire after a hard day’s work. One of them asks, “Joe, if you had a million dollars, would you share half with me?” His friend replies, “You know I would, Tom.” Tom asks again, “Joe, if you had two Cadillacs, would you give me one?” Again, the reply, “You know, Tom, as good a friend as you’ve been, if I had two Cadillacs I would share one with you.” The third time, Tom asks, “Joe, if you had two hogs, would you give one to me?” Joe stops short, “Tom, you know I’ve got two hogs!”

That’s the way we often view our possessions. It’s all God’s except, of course, for the things we own personally. The outrageous claim of the gospel is that we are Stewards, not owners. We have been entrusted with some of God’s creation “for a while.” This entrusting includes a responsibility to use creation—all of it—according to God’s plan.

That means we don’t have the option of “tipping” God (whether that’s 10%, 15%, 20% or more) and doing whatever we please with the rest. Our checkbook, credit card statement, and bank statement become theological documents. So does our calendar. With them we are declaring the extent to which we believe all creation is God’s.

If you’re expecting that this is the place where I tell you how you should spend your money and how much you should give to the church, I’m sorry to disappoint you. That’s an ongoing conversation between you and God. What I will tell you, is that the church is a place where that conversation can be shared, discussed, and gracefully lived out. Church is the place where the gift of Stewardship sinks in, and the joy and generosity of its practice are lived out. Collectively as a congregation, and as families and individuals, we have the opportunity to grow our faith and use our resources in ways that we believe God is directing. This is how we develop our “Faith Factor”, which is the most powerful antidote to “Fear Factor.”

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Connecting God with Everyday Life

If you’ve been to 11:00 a.m. Sunday worship (in the sanctuary) of First Presbyterian Church, Fayetteville, TN, lately, you’ve probably noticed the rubric in the bulletin and observed one or the other of our pastors practice “Connecting God with Everyday Life.” There’s more to this than meets the eye. On the surface it may seem only like a replacement for what we used to call “Time with the Younger Church.”

In a somewhat joking manner, on the occasions of baptism and Communion, I have suggested, “”Don’t try this at home.” because these two (Sacraments) are communal events that are to be observed within the context of corporate worship. Beyond these two (baptism & Communion), I can think of no other worship practice that carries this warning. In fact, we are strongly encouraged to practice the rest of our worshipful ways throughout all of our lives.

The same goes for the practice of connecting God with everyday life—maybe even doubly so. Finding God and connections to the sacred in everyday life are much more than a game. They are important parts of what forms and transforms us as people of faith. If our faith thoughts and faith actions are limited to what we do on Sunday mornings and other special occasions, we miss the joyful opportunity to integrate our faith into the rest of our week and life. We miss the chance to revel in God’s ordinary gifts.

In Ordinarily Sacred, Lynda Sexson writes:
My son once found the hip-bone of a large cow. He wore it as a stately garment or as armor; he played the bone like a guitar or played himself in the bone like a dinosaur. He circulated his interest upon the bone back into his discovery of it in the woods, to the being who had walked it before abandoning it, to the shape and feel of it, to hanging it on the wall and looking at it and the shadows it cast. And the bone was transformed—quite beyond the original fragment of decay in the woods—into images of everything from death to art.

I have a drawer that is filled with things that I have collected over the years—simple and ordinary things that fascinate me. I would like to believe that these things offer me an opportunity to appreciate the glory and diversity of both God’s creation and human invention. The latter stems from the former.

What’s in your collection?

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


(for all of those facing therapy)

Its prefix indicates a do-over;
visiting something again.
Habitat is in the root:
“finding the house” again.

“Here is where I live”
more like “how”
with my movement and
all skills and abilities.

Back to the basics,
body gardening at its best;
starting over from the seed,
working up to bloom and fruit.

Focus and energy required,
intensity a determining factor;
range of motion rebuilt,
atrophied muscles rebound.

Goals, rewards help keep
chin up, perspective balanced.
Smile of satisfaction beams,
simplicity wins again.

Every day is house-hunting,
rehabbing one way or another;
for maps, courage, direction
we give you thanks, O Lord.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hope and Help

Moment Magnitude a feeble attempt
at bringing order—or at least measurement
to catastrophic release of seismic energy
that leaves our planet’s surface
a teeming pile of chaotic disaster.

What used to be organized construction:
beams, bricks and blocks
architecturally designed and shaped,
now precariously piled randomly
as if no one ever planned or cared at all.

Creole-speaking masses with
little or no slice of the economic pie
felt and saw their frail abodes
collapse into nothingness as if
earth issued eviction notices.

In the face of death and deprivation,
with whatever makeshift tools they find
hot, hungry, thirsty, traumatized folk
dig for life like there’s no tomorrow
because for too many there isn’t.

Grant that hope and help
may feed one another and, together,
keep the world focused on
Haiti’s rubble-rousing and reconstruction
until dignity builds her permanent dwelling.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mission's Meal

As cultures, economies, faiths,
and people’s lives intertwine
in this ever-shrinking world,
inequity of circumstances and resources
inevitably weaves a fragile tapestry.

Warp threads extend vertically,
from earth to heaven,
stretching to connect
creation and holy hope;
declaring independence and worth.

Woof threads span horizontally,
from person to person, life to life,
drawing us together as family,
posing questions of abundance, scarcity,
exposing interdependence as two-way street.

Respect is invited to the table
as stories, faith, lives are shared,
understanding supplants judgment,
trust trumps angst and fear,
all hunger for God’s sustenance.

Sustainability must be addressed
from both directions simultaneously,
mine & yours, ours & theirs.
How can we both live and serve
with what we have and haven’t?

Dignity becomes a possibility
when resources are controlled
by those who have a need;
we/they becomes us,
stuff becomes God’s.

Tapestry of mission and service
unfurls into intended form
when we all allow ourselves
to be fed by the long-handled spoon
of one another’s gifts and grace.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Church I See

I see a congregation that celebrates worship in two separate locations,
at two separate times, in two separate styles, yet yearns to live, act,
and serve as a single body, united in its commitment to serve the risen
Christ through its common mission. I have a vision of a congregation
that sees the sanctuary and the gym as half-full on Sunday mornings,
and is so excited about what is going on here that friends, neighbors,
co-workers, and acquaintances hear about it and are invited. Have we
seen this congregation? Will we be this congregation?

I see a church that reaches out to serve others near and far with time,
treasure, and talent; a church with missional fervor that has been
grasped by grace and flung into the world with an attitude of gratitude.
I have a vision of a church that staffs itself and holds its staff accountable
for supporting and empowering all of its members to more
faithfully embrace a personal and corporate call to Christian worship,
mission, and service. Have we seen her? Will we be her?

I see people who make time to learn and teach one another, and all
who gather, in all sorts of formats and venues, not because it is an obligation,
but because it is a passion. I have a vision of people whose
faith traditions are regularly practiced, understood, celebrated, and
shared; people who ask “Why not?” more often than “Why?”
Have we seen these people? Will we be these people?

I see a congregation that gladly opens its doors, hearts, and homes to
people of all ages and circumstances, regardless of whether they are
members or whether they do or can contribute to the church’s coffers;
a congregation that recognizes that each generation has something to
teach and learn from the other. I have a vision of a congregation that
believes finding better ways to connect the generations is critical to its
purpose. Have we seen this congregation? Will we be this congregation?

I see a church that cultivates members whose generosity is deeply
rooted in God’s ownership of all creation; a church that challenges its
members to join in and support its mission and vision, rather than
meet its budget. I have a vision of a church that bases its budget more
on what it believes God wants done, than on patterns of what people
have let go of; a church whose members find ways to support the
church’s mission during and after their own lives are complete. Have
we seen her? Will we be her?

I see people who are fully and joyfully committed to and engaged in
revealing God’s grace to all generations now and forevermore. Have
we seen these people? Will we be these people? Won’t you
join these people?

© 2010 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Pastor Jessi recently introduced me to an online art form called “Wordle.” ( The main page’s introduction reads:

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

This description is much too simple. Wordle may be considered a “toy” because you can “play” with (tweak) the images it generates, but the power of the “word cloud” image goes far beyond play. It creates a visual representation of the central ideas and focal points of a given body of words.

From time to time, either printed in the bulletin or on the screen for TouchPoint, we will use wordle word-clouds to help you see the key messages and meanings in scripture, stories, and other writings. Above is a wordle word cloud for this article.

© 2010 Todd Jenkins