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.


video
© 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

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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

Saturday, July 2, 2011

American-American

As I pulled up to a traffic light today, I saw a truck with a bumper sticker that read: I'm an American-American. I figured it wasn’t a bumper sticker celebrating stuttering. As I glanced at the man driving the truck, I was confident he was not a Native American.

So, I wondered: what is the message this man is trying to convey to the world with his bumper sticker? Does he have some sense of privilege as if somehow his pre-animated soul had kissed-up to the master of the universe and had been asked, "So, in what century and on what section of which continent would you prefer to enter into creation?"?  And did he imagine himself answering, quite smugly, “I believe I would like to be born in the late twentieth century in North America—the United States of America to be specific.”?

This amazing country into which I have been blessed to be born, created and sustained by the integrity and ferociously held beliefs of many who worked and gave of themselves—not just for the notion of liberty and freedom, but for the practice, experience, and spread of it—exists because people are both capable of and willing to regularly step outside of their own self-interest, considering and protecting the interest of others, both collectively and individually.

Sometimes this selflessness manifests itself in military service, which can and has exacted supreme sacrifice from far too many brave souls, and tragically scarred the lives of many more. Other times, with equal courage and importance, these champions of freedom have chosen to use words and costly actions of non-violence to propagate the critical seed of liberty. Honesty and truth, spoken with conviction and backed by choices and lifestyle, are as capable of diffusing hatred and indifference as the most advanced and deadly weapons of war.

My trust and hope in God’s promise of shalom—the peace that both passes understanding and overcomes the fear, anxiety, and pride that fuel the fire of war—bids me to hold out for the day when our rockets will be melted and molded into playground equipment, and our bombs will be repurposed into fuel to transport estranged family members and friends toward tearful reunions.

I don’t believe that “I am an American-American” is a bumper sticker or an idea that made or makes us into a nation of hope and promise. We are bigger and better than that. Deliver us, O God, from the vanity of confusing the luck and miracle of our circumstances of birth with the expectation of entitlement. Give us the courage to celebrate and support both those who fight to defend freedom with weapons of mass destruction and those whose weapons are more subtle but no-less effective.

© 2011 Todd Jenkins