Saturday, December 24, 2011

Editing the Future

The other day I tried to use an old jump-drive that I found in my desk. My laptop opened the drive and indicated that its storage capacity was already maxed out. The image above shows the files it contains. Notice that the highlighted file was last modified December 29, 2103. It's been a while since I studied math, but I'm pretty sure this date is more than 92 years into the future. 

Beyond the frustration with my inability to remove these extraneous files to make room for today's important documents and pictures, I am curious about what it's like to edit the future. Most people spend a lot of time and energy trying to edit their past, and some of us use precious human resources worrying about what will happen later, but I'm not sure I've ever considered the implications of editing the future. 

I hope you never grow weary of hearing about grace (as it seems that I am forever thinking and writing about it). I think that grace is precisely that-- a way of re-writing the possibility of who we can and will become. If I could open the 2103 file of our lives, I am confident that I would find overflowing evidence of God's glorious unfolding plan. Barring major medical breakthrough, I do not expect to be alive in 2103, but I have unwavering faith that the world that God intends will still be unfolding. 

My current hope is to leave both the past and future to God, and to do my best to open myself to living in and with the present. 

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Spending

Advent’s call to wait, watch, prepare
didn’t outlast Thanksgiving’s leftover turkey;
O come, o come Emmanuel gave way
to O little town of Bethlehem.

The family candle ritual fell
as the calendar filled with fun;
the bell lap comes earlier each year,
pushing, pressing; fibrillation nears.

The devotional book gathers dust
as cable inundates us with new classics.
How many twists and technologies can we find
to complicate and reintroduce Nicholas’ gift?

Worship at the cathedral of the mall
intensifies as credit tachometers
whine beyond the red zone;
package toting enhances subluxation.

Always one step ahead of where we are;
spirit, mind, body– never the three shall meet;
standing in line, expecting only to
exchange presents instead of presence.

Beyond the mall manger’s baby powder scent
the Christ child begs our attention;
the true spending gift of Christmas
is risking honest time sharing love.

© 2004 Todd Jenkins

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gathered and Sent

Newsflash: The word “synagogue” has its roots in the Greek word that means “gathered.” Synagogues became life-giving places of sanctuary for those practicing the Hebrew faith as its practitioners became widely scattered across the Middle East, and particularly after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. The word “church” has its roots in the Greek word ecclesia, which means “sent out.” The practice of faith via religion requires a balance of these two: gathering and sending. If today’s church spent and focused as much of its time, talent, energy, and possessions on being sent out (“blessed, broken and shared” to use the language of Eucharist) as it does on being gathered (secure, protected, and perpetuated) the world would be a much healthier and holier place. Just sayin’. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sunset December 14

My cousin Lee and others have shared numerous photos of breathtaking sunsets lately (the photo's hers), which is probably why I was so attentive to the horizon on the way back from Vantown yesterday. I couldn't pull over and take a picture, so I just talked to the sun all the way home. Here's what I couldn't get out of my head this morning:

As struggle/transition (synonymous most times)
between day and night
neared its inevitable conclusion –
just when I thought the sun
would acquiesce painlessly,
she opened a vein,
letting flow a dark red river.

Clouds, tipping their hand,
soaked up the blood like nurses
gently gauzing surgical incision,
evidencing their complicity in the coup.

Of course, dark eventually triumphed,
but through sun’s epic struggle,
those of us facing raging night
remember her promised return;
winter’s pall not quite so ominous.

This daily sacrifice,
played out on every horizon,
with infinite variety,
shores-up fragile walls of faith,
reminding us: grace and God
are as ever-tenacious
in pursuit of our future.

Thanks be to edge of earth and sky!

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, December 11, 2011

If Joseph Had a Blog

Bringing the Gospel into the 21st Century
(If Joseph Had a Blog)

Joseph Weldon: ArcWelding.blogger.com

March 1
Mary’s been acting strange lately—not just your usual “teenage girl you’ve asked to marry you” strange. It’s more than that, but I can’t put my finger on it.

May 3
Work has been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to blog. There are so many bridges that need building, and I’m so very thankful to have a job working on them. Haven’t had much time for sleep, and when I have, I’ve had some pretty weird dreams.

Last night I dreamed that an extra-terrestrial visited me, only it wasn’t one of those Roswell-like outer-space creatures—more like a really calming presence that glowed a lot. I wonder if it was someone who had spent too much time at one of Japan’s earthquake-damaged nuclear power plants. Anyway, this “dream visitor” told me Mary was the one for me (Duh, don’t I know that?!). Then he told me that she was faithful and a very good listener, and that I should learn from her.

After that, the dream turned into a nightmare. He told me that Mary was going to have a baby! And I knew that we hadn’t… and he said that she hadn’t… and then I woke up in a cold sweat.

May 15
Finally got to talk to Mary about that crazy nightmare I had. I’m beginning to wonder if both of us didn’t get some bad sushi, ‘cause she says she had a similar dream. Not only that, she’s started to put on weight and has this indescribable glow about her—and I’m not talking about a nuclear glow. What’s up with that? Do you think that dream-visitor could have been right?

August 20
Now everyone’s starting to treat us differently—and not in a good way. We can see it everywhere we go. People stop talking when we get within ear-shot and look at us with either a deer-in-the-headlights look on their faces, or a smug, down-the-nose stare, and then we hear them whispering after we pass by.

I’ve taken to praying a lot lately—not so much because I think I’m so spiritual or religious, but because there’s so much I don’t understand, and it’s the only way I’ve learned to live with the unanswered questions.

October 8
There’s no hiding this baby-on-the-way now. The only remaining question is what we’ll do after it arrives.

I just received notice in the mail that Uncle Sam is requiring that I be in some nowheres-ville town in Kansas for the last 2 weeks of December. There’s a Homeland Security training event scheduled there, and my National Guard unit is participating.

Today
We leave for Kansas next weekend. I’m afraid to leave Mary alone. She looks like she’s wearing a 30 lb. watermelon around her waist, and neither one of us have very many friends left. I guess she’s going to have to go with me. I sure hope we can find an affordable place to stay!

This “listening to God” stuff is harder than it looks. I’m going to keep praying, hope for the best, and listen as well as I can. To all my followers out there in the blogosphere I beg: Pray for us! Pray for us all.


© 2012 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

‘Twas the Beginning of Advent

'Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church
Our hope was dying — we'd given up on the search.
It wasn't so much that Christ wasn't invited,
But after 2,000-plus years we were no longer excited.

Oh, we knew what was coming — no doubt about that.
And that was the trouble — it was all "old hat."
November brought the first of an unending series of pains
With carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns.

There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys.
Enough to seduce even the most devout girls and boys.
Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt
From this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt.

The priests and prophets and certainly the kings
Were all so consumed with the desire for "things!"
It was rare, if at all, that you'd hear of the reason
For the origin and meaning of this holy-day season.

A baby, it seems, once had been born
In the mid-east somewhere on that first holy-day morn.
But what does that mean for folks like us,
Who've lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss?

Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting,
Of hoping and praying, and anticipating?
Can we let go of all the things and the stuff?
Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough?

Can we open our eyes and open our ears?
Can we find him again after all of these years?
Will this year be different from all the rest?
Will we be able to offer him all of our best?

So many questions, unanswered thus far,
As wise ones seeking the home of the star.
Where do we begin-- how do we start
To make for the child a place in our heart?

Perhaps we begin by letting go
Of our limits on hope, and of the things that we know.
Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss,
Let go of the searching, let Christmas find us.

We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes,
To see the king coming in our own neighbors' cries.
We look without seeking what we think we've earned,
But rather we're looking for relationships spurned.

With him he brings wholeness and newness of life
For brother and sister, for husband and wife.
The Christ-child comes not by our skill,
But rather he comes by his own Father's will.

We can't make him come with parties and bright trees,
But only by getting down on our knees.
He'll come if we wait amidst our affliction,
Coming in spite of, and not by our restriction.

His coming will happen-- of this there's no doubt.
The question is whether we'll be in or out.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
Do you have the courage to peer through the lock?

A basket on your porch, a child in your reach.
A baby to love, to feed and to teach.
He'll grow in wisdom as God's only Son.
How far will we follow this radical one?

He'll lead us to challenge the way that things are.
He'll lead us to follow a single bright star.
But that will come later if we're still around.
The question for now: Is the child to be found?

Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls?
Can we find solitude in our holy halls?
Can we find hope, keep alert, stay awake?
Can we receive the child for ours and God's sake?

From on high with the caroling host as he sees us,
He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus!
As Advent begins, all these questions make plea.
The only true answer: We will see, we will see.

© 1994 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Between the Lines

In a relationship, when lack of communication causes us to read between the lines, there are considerations for both parties. The non-communicative one gives up the right to tell or control the story. You can only affect the conversation if you are a participant.  For the one who hears only silence, care must be taken not to fabricate a story that is vastly different from behavior observed. Actions speak louder than words, so the story between the lines will be congruent with deeds.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent Urgency

Advent urgency: a faithful attitudinal posture that avoids the polar-opposite pitfalls of complacency and anxiety. Complacency is fueled by certitude regarding most of life’s mysteries, and a cocksureness that this understanding has earned us a well-deserved rest and deliverance from the chaos and foibles of mere mortals. It is a satisfaction with our "place" that is built on the perception that this place is above most, if not all, other people.

Fear, on the other hand, is the empty-caloried food that nourishes anxiety and starves hope, focusing our attention and energy on the host of destructive possibilities in the universe, and projects them as an unconquerable monster on the big screen of the psyche.  Fear is the place where, instead of the noble eagle riding currents of wind/spirit wherever it takes her, we are much more likely to see the buzzard, hard-banking in ever-shrinking circles ‘round a decaying mass of flesh.  Advent urgency is the hope that stems from the anticipation that God’s promise is not only true, but also arriving.

 © 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks for Giving

Thanks for giving: I’ve got a boatload of it; can’t seem to get rid of it all. Every time I think I’ve given it all away, I find more! I’ve also got a boatload of other stuff (actually more like a house-full and a storage unit full), and finding ways to give it away also adds to that never-ending pile of thanks for giving. Is it just me, or does it seem that way to you, too?

But I know that even those of us who have boatloads and houses full also have empty, hurting places that ooze pain and seep tears. The Norman Rockwell holiday dream that we’re sold only adds to the seepage. May we find the courage to be no less and no more than our true selves, the grace to accept the true selves of our blood and kin, the wisdom to avoid further injury, and the hope to live with more anticipation and less expectation.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Small World

A GE TV commercial says, “We are building (aircraft) engines that make the world smaller.” Larger airplanes with larger engines with greater range are not what make the world smaller. Our continued addiction to fossil fuel may indeed make the world smaller, but not in the way we had hoped.

The thing that makes the world smaller in a good way is conversation. People sitting down and finding out enough about one another to realize that our commonalities far outweigh our differences—this will make the world smaller. Learning that we are all interconnected and that the decisions that one person makes in freedom have the potential to place thousands, if not millions, in peril will make the world smaller.

These are the conversations that create barriers to war, fear, mistrust, and hatred. These are the connections that put us in touch with common denominators that open doors and windows to the kind of math that Jesus practiced—not zero-sum math, but invitational math. Jesus must have liked fresh air and sunlight, because he spent most of his time opening doors, windows, and letting people rip open the roof.

What doors, windows, and roofs have opened in your conversations?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Upside Down House

Strange as it may seem, the only house that can withstand the crush of all the chaos that life has to offer is the house of religion whose foundation is faith.  More often than not, we build our houses upside down, using religion as a foundation, trying to decorate with faith.  When faith feels less like your foundation and more like your decor, it’s time to keep digging.

 © 2011 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day

Let us refuse to allow Veterans Day to be limited to a 24-hour catch-up for 364 days of taking for granted all of the men and women who chose (or were drafted) and choose to give of themselves and their families in military service to our nation. Let us, instead, use this Veterans Day to commit ourselves to a lifetime of respect, support, and appreciation for all veterans. Let us refuse to allow them to become pawns of politics or jesters of jingoistic patriotism. Let us demand that all veterans be provided the physical, psychological, intellectual, and vocational support necessary to regain their lives when their service is completed. Let us insist that both the cost of and the effect on particular human lives be a legitimate participant in every conversation about war's possibility, direction, and duration. To do any less would be to dishonor veterans and Veterans Day. 
© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grace

We are not sultans of grace—absolute rulers or despots who control its depth and distribution—but we are among those whose lives have been eastered-up out of sin’s primordial ooze from the universe’s fiery core of hope. Let it flow, let it glow, let it show! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Distilled Inverted Pyramid

 When fathomless places of another
spill out onto my being,
causing deep to soak to deep,
there comes a time and place
when feelings just won’t keep.

 Words with their emotions pour
onto napkin, keyboard, page,
leave impressions on my being:
overwhelming joy, grief, outrage.

 Word piles into line and verse,
first in droves but then
descending; much more terse.

 Until the end is finally found,
and all that’s left upon the ground:

 a single line of hope distilled.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Monday, October 24, 2011

All Who Wonder

All who wonder are not lost
unless you count being found by God
as the total loss of control it truly is.

When fear gives way to curiosity,
all hope for individuation flies
the way of first naiveté.

But oh, the joy of life unleashed
when, held in God's mysterious palm,
we uncork life's champagne questions!

The who and how of our connection
weaves intergenerational tapestry
as universal quilt of hope.

Me and thee, thou and I
become the "us" of universe,
things used, people loved.

Grain, grape, water morph
from ordinary, daily sustenance
to sacramental grace.

World shrinks without claustrophobia,
stories blend without conflict,
love wins without suffocating.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Heartbeat

Somewhere a life terminates:
flatline silence, electrical neutrality.
With that ending, family, friends
bid farewell, raw grief protrudes.

How, in that cold, dark pall
can strangers ask for life,
can mourners think, feel beyond self?
Only God knows this answer.

Years of academic, clinical preparation,
teams of seamless precision
pour out methodical passion,
battling time’s incessant beat.

Who’s to say what connections weave
when one body merges with another,
one family’s loss becomes another’s gain?
Time’s passing may reveal glimpses.

Have you ever stopped to consider
how this mirrors resurrection;
just might represent the way
God intends universe to function?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Monday, October 3, 2011

Eradication

Prayer for Eradication
(For all whose health is threatened by infection and illness.)

Promised Land holds many gifts,
perfect health not among them.
Homeland, however distant and inadequate,
prepared our bodies to fend-off
only native strains of illness.

Exodus always exposes
the charade of our self-sufficiency,
threatens to overwhelm us with its newness,
its uniquely configured DNA,
its cornucopia of germs and viruses.

Hold us, O God of liberation,
in your strong but tender hand,
bring wisdom, love, science,
three of your holy graces,
to bear upon our small, frail bodies.

Move life-giving water to its intended place,
out of lungs and into other tissue,
hydrating us and leaving room for
your spirit-guided breath to animate,
inspire us to new life in you.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Into the Terror

Little band of little people,
separated, not as cream from milk,
but night from day;
angry about what is and isn’t,
fearful of what’s next,
wagering against all hope,
expecting less as victor.

Hatred on a short fuse,
mistrust fully wired,
xenophobia amped to max,
sacrificial lives dehumanized,
calculating rage’s dispersion, contagion,
betting on proliferation.

Surprised, overwhelmed, suffocated
by destruction’s carnage, intensity;
help arrives from four corners,
order, compassion begin,
Gilead’s balm overflows.

Sorting through rubble,
ferreting life’s meaning,
forced inventory of value,
prioritizing future’s map.

Defining moments like waves,
lap our shores methodically,
tumbling smooth jagged edges.

God only knows who will triumph,
terror’s disconnect or holy’s hope.

Just in: Love wins?

© September 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wildflowers

They don't blend in the garden,
rule-following not always a priority.
Tougher-than most,
with their own agenda;
blooming out of season
and often against all odds.

Those who venture into open fields
with eyes wide open
frequently glimpse their stunning glow;
colors, patterns beyond expectation,
surprising life at every turn.

Memories stronger than yesterday
persist in keeping hearts afire,
as hues long-remembered
refuse to fade into the night.

Nature has its own way
of giving us an instant replay;
sometimes it takes our breath away.

The fields are ripe with reminiscence
for those who pay attention.

Have you seen your wildflower lately?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, August 27, 2011

“Whither Thou Goest…” (for Katie and Curtis)


Would that our speech was still
so full of color, but then
we might also be stuck with
such a worldview and
barbaric treatment for
classes and peoples deemed lower;

not that the flora of the language
has direct impact on behavior or,
for that matter, that we’re completely
(if at all) immune from such
provincial thought and behavior now.

It is a promise of the highest order,
spoken in the midst of a strange redeeming,
where land and mouths to feed
seem to be of greater import than
emotions and relationships.

Ruth, the outsider of outsiders,
Moabite that she is,
throws ethnicity to the wind
and pledges her troth to a mother-in-law
who is as good as dead.

It is really the pledge of all
who abandon self for the sake of God;
home and kin, vocation and comfort,
all tossed into the whirlwind
of God’s tempestuous travel plans.

Who knows how many times
it has been used to caulk wedding vows,
betrothed cleaving themselves one to another?

I do not claim to understand
the mystery of enduring matrimony,
but it does seem to me that when
both partners are willing to live
(not just speak) “Whither thou goest…”
first to God and then to each other,
the grace not only of longevity
but also of joy is within their reach.

Ruth 1:16 (KJV)
1And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

OCD


As a culture, we often dabble in obsessive behavior, not because we are possessed by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or because we are capable of comprehending the enormous tragedy of this illness, but because we are so afraid of change and letting go to what God has in store for us - so devoid of trust - that we fixate on controlling everything around us. Ours is Obsessive CONTROL Dis-ease.

If you don't think it’s true, or that you don’t suffer from this malady, try this experiment of modernity and development: the next time an unexpected event or the prolonging of a scheduled one encroaches on the time, person, and place for another activity that you have planned to do, pay attention to how long and how often you are fixated and worried about missing the planned event as opposed to immersing yourself in whom and what is actually going on around you.

It is pure illusion to believe that we can control much of anything. We can control appearances, but only for a while. The thin veneer of appearance will “grow strangely dim” as the old hymn goes. About the only thing we have a chance of controlling is whether we are paying attention to the here and now.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

I have a metaphorical freezer full of blackberries. I wonder how many burning bush conversations I've ignored and how many times I've missed the opportunity to sink my toes in holy humus?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brothers


My first public act, after a 10 week sabbatical, was to attend the graveside funeral of a friend’s brother. It was a slow and painful death, by all accounts, even though the family never let on. Theirs was a life of simplicity and dignity to the end.

Almost 11 years ago, my own brother died. It was a surreal period in my life. I have no recollection of how long it took for a new normal to finally seem genuine. I do remember a beautiful note composed with unsurpassed cursive penmanship, sound theology, and deep passion. It was from this same friend whose brother was laid to rest today.

The funeral service was brief and simple; a reading of (I believe) “The Order for the Burial of the Dead” from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Keeping the tradition of their forebears, the deceased had requested that this, and only this be read at his graveside. As the service began, and the surviving brother explained his brother’s wishes and his intentions, I was skeptical about this ancient rite’s ability to relate and offer sustenance to the multiple generations gathered.

I needn’t have been. Even though I was standing far back (seeking the shade of a friendly old cemetery tree) and am growing deafer with each passing year, I could hear enough. The scriptures and phrases emanating from beneath that canvas tent brought to my mind a comforting collection of hymn lyrics and scriptures, as well as time-tested prayers of promise and hope. It seemed synchronous with the family and resonated with the gathered congregation.

I hope that I and others, in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, will be able to offer my friend the comfort and assurance he needs to see his way to a new normal. Isn’t that a big part of why we’re here?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Q&A

Life and faith are less about answering the questions that are handed to us or the questions we want answered or the questions whose iron-clad answers will give us a comfortable position and advantage, than they are about wrestling with the deeper questions that scare us. It is when we cease and desist with the pursuit of easy answers to the less important questions that we will find the energy and courage to do the critical work of reframing the questions.

Truth, in all its beauty, is less about certitude with regard to common questions, and more about struggle with the kinds of questions whose answers may never be fully known or understood. God did not put us here to confidently conquer the content of junior high questions, but to risk living with ever-evolving ones. The important question is not, "What are the answers to the questions people are asking?" but "What are the questions we are afraid to ask, much less answer?" It is here, in the deep places, where meaning and purpose find their roots.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hospitality

Rowan Williams tells us to take the risk of hospitality. When we turn to the Rule of St. Benedict, we are shown the fullness of what hospitality can mean. It is not merely the open door or the open gate that offers warmth, food, and drink, but also the open heart offering acceptance and love, and not least the open mind ready and willing to listen and to receive and exchange. St. Benedict tells us to give a welcome to all who come because we see in them the figure of Christ himself. This means not judging or labeling, not being critical or competitive, not imprisoning the other in our demands and expectations.

[Esther de Waal. To Pause at the Threshold: Reflections on Living on the Border (Kindle Locations 169-173). Kindle Edition.]

Hospitality isn't the willingness to accommodate people who show up to our house if (and only if) they are willing to play by OUR rules. This is actually closer to the definition of HOSTILITY. Hospitality is leaving the light on to welcome ANYBODY who shows up and joyfully learning how to play, sing, worship, and eat by THEIR customs and culture.

Monday, August 1, 2011

We Are How We Pray

Our listening to God is an on-again, off-again affair; God always listens to us. The essential reality of prayer is that its source and character are entirely in God. We are most ourselves when we pray.

Eugene H. Peterson. Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading (p. 104). Kindle Edition.

If we are most ourselves when we pray, then HOW we pray defines who we are! Do we pray smally and selfishly, seeking much and being willing to do little? Or do we pray largely, open to all that God is at work doing in the lives and world around us? How revealing it would be to realize, not that "We are what we eat." but that "We are how we pray."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wishing for Happiness

Looking over your shoulder,
things could have been different,
maybe even much better.
What tale would you rewrite

if you had a story eraser?
Family, friends, career?
Maybe even chances missed
by the non-choice of hesitation?

Even when I plan the Nth degree,
my foresight turns out to be
about as good as my eyesight:
much in need of at least a good pair

of dollar store reading glasses.
Who could have predicted this rain
that dampens life’s parade?
And so I relive the tragedy of

my comic existence over and over,
second-guessing every decision,
wistfully imagining edited versions,
ever rainbowing my monochromatic life.

In this state of desired mulligans,
emptiness hangs heavy in the air,
making every breath a struggle.
Through quiet moments, attending respiration,

I slowly begin to realize what’s missing.
Not the fairy tale, or opportunities lost,
but the very soul of life itself.
Wishing for perfection’s happiness blinds me

to a life of joy always present
in the gift of gratitude for this journey:
hope in each path and person,
grace in every thought, word, deed.


© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Resurrection Power

For most of us in the church, there once was a time when we were madly in love with God. It might have been a long time ago. It might have been yesterday. It might be now. It might be tomorrow. It might be any combination of these times. 

Think of what that time was like or is like. What was happening in the world around you? What were you doing? What were others doing? What did you perceive that God was doing?

If you are not feeling that passionate love for God now, what has changed? What are you doing differently? What are others doing or not doing? What do you perceive that God is or isn't doing?

When you are at a place where you don't feel that passion, you are also at a place where that "absence" is visible to other people. One way we describe that passion is "the power of resurrection." Without that power, we have nothing; no personal energy, no corporate energy, no congregational energy, no missional energy. 

If we desire others to join us on this journey, we will have to recapture that power; not a disingenuous power, or a facsimile, or a power driven by emotion or intellect or anything else that we possess. I am talking about the kind of resurrection power that emanates from a life that is wholly surrendered to God, a life that is guided by the Holy Spirit. We have to move beyond examining what is different to asking what ELSE needs to be different.

Stop asking what’s popular, what we’ve always done, what will make the most people happy, or the important people happy, and start asking what will please
God. Stop asking what we need to do to maintain the status quo, and start asking what new things toward which God is calling us. Put God in charge of where we go, what we do, when we do it, and for how long we do it (individually, in our families and in our congregation), and we will find ourselves overflowing with resurrection power and transfigured by God’s grace. Then we will find that we don't have to beg or cajole others to join us. They will be beating the door down to get on that train. 


Are you ready to depart from the station?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Surprise

God has a way of showing up
in unexpected ways and places,
times and faces. Meaning and purpose
for life tend to come when we allow

and maybe even relish the exhilaration
of these unpredictable arrivals.
This requires a high degree of trust.
Some of us are better at this than others.

Most of us, not as good at it
as we imagine. Many of us play
elaborate games, which are actually
antithetical to the practice of trust,

to convince ourselves that we
really know how to trust.
These games include propping up
our security on the overloaded backs

of others and with the trappings
of wealth and technology. Deliver us,
O Lord, from the illusion
of self-developed security and

from imagining that any security
can be had apart from you. Surprise us
once more with your message
of grace and hope! Amen.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sabbath and the Hamster Wheel

The image of a hamster wheel seems quite appropriate for most of what we spend our lives doing. How much of your day, week, year, and life feels like it could be accomplished on auto-pilot because it is so routine? There are multiple stages involved in exiting this circular cultural monotony in order to answer God's call to Sabbath. Do not fool yourself into believing that Sabbath is either a simple or once-and-for-all choice.

First is our personal choice- usually built on some combination of desperation, hope, and inspiration - to consciously choose more attentive participation in the ordinariness of here and now.  When all is said and done, the present moment is what we have. The present moment, and its surrounding elements (people and all of creation in each moment), are the only things to which we can commit our presence.

Next come the desire and willingness to let go of our feelings of anxiety and inferiority regarding all those who seem capable of keeping more juggling balls in the air than can we - those who read, run, think, act, and finish before we even figure out how to play the game. Do you remember that boy or girl who always finished things (games, tests, puzzles, or other challenges) more quickly and/or more accurately than you? Sabbath-keeping requires that we neither judge ourselves nor begrudge others who appear to have, do, and enjoy more.

Next comes the examination of those who take shortcuts or even cheat to get ahead of us. That person who speeds and/or passes on the double-yellow or in the emergency lane: so what? The co-worker or competitor who cuts corners, providing an inferior product or service in order to shirk responsibility or steal our clients: let them go. Time will catch up with them. Don’t let your energy-sapping angst over their temporary gain catch up with you.

As long as we are angry, anxious, and focused on our own sense of “behindness” in relation to others, we can never fully abandon ourselves to Sabbath practice or rest. There can be no opportunity for focusing on what God has in store for us if we cannot find ways and places to cease and desist in our own busyness. Scores, measurement, and competition are three roadblocks to the path of God’s intended purpose for our lives. Giving them up for a period of time is our only hope to conceive what God has in store.

When did you last choose to step off the wheel?

© 2011 Todd Jenkins