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


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