Monday, June 30, 2014

7:49 PM


Aaaand the retreat begins.
First there must be
a withdrawal from all
to which I have become
accustomed and addicted, including:

* responding to others' needs
* writing to speak to those needs
* sucking worth out of those responses

There's a crow in a tree
about 100 feet from the front window.
He's been calling for the past hour,
as I finished some work.

As soon as I settled,
he stopped. I'm pretty sure
that's God, patiently, plaintively cawing.

Now I hear the dogs (coyotes?)
begin their sunset song.
But only for a few minutes.
Then a sacred silence floats in.

The trees dance their green at me,
as the wind pulses its ever-erratic rhythm
through their nimble extremities.

The sky's once-dense rain-fog
returns to a steamy afternoon blue,
only to succumb to dusk's pink ribbons.


As the colors fade into evening's gray,
the lightning bugs begin their survival-flash,
conjuring progeny into the fading light.

All through the dimming,
I hear the wind say - for the first time
since I-don't-know-when -

"I sing this song for you every day,
not for you to YouTube it
for someone else, but for your pleasure;

for no other purpose than
your soaking-up the unconditionality
of my grace poured
into evening's sky for pure joy."

Surely but steadily, all of the ego
and pettiness with which my world
has been surrounded begin
to fade with the sun's sinking.

The stillness of holy darkness
gently blows her peace
through the open screens.

I know that I could breathe
like this forever.
Maybe I will.


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Friday, June 27, 2014

2 Prayers for Worship

Invocation

We know, O God, that a prayer of invocation is not a talisman or spell to conjure you into the sanctuary. We understand that we don’t need to do that, because you are not only already here, you are always everywhere.

Let this prayer of invocation, then, be an invitation for us to settle ourselves and focus our attention on all of the ways your presence transforms our circumstances in, through, and beyond worship. Let us be aware of your presence, both in this hour and in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Illumination

Photo by Fran Curtis Allison Young

It seems strange to pray for light, O Lord, in a room that is already full of light from multiple sources. It may even seem silly to light candles in the presence of so many lumens. But we do it anyway, recognizing that it is our hearts and our spirits that need to be able to see; and you, O God, are the only one who can light those candles. Open our hearts and minds to the light of your promise, as we read and participate in your story today. Let us find our own story in yours and in each other’s, so we may find hope and be lifted above our distress, into the peace of your presence; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Same

The power of love and pain
share the same root.
They are not opposites
or even opposite sides
of the same coin,

but branches on the same tree.
It is the tree of Life,
and cannot be climbed
without grasping and
standing on all the branches.

Life itself is wrapped in pain.
Avoidance of the latter not only
steers clear of love, it is the road
to never having lived at all.

Love and pain make the endurance
of one another possible,
but also the transformative hope
of each other available.

Pain is the story that teaches us
what it's like to reach into the deep places
we'd have missed otherwise.

Love is the redemptive healing
drawing us out of our own aching caves
into the sacred wells of others.
 
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney
© 2014 Todd Jenkins


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Deeps

A flat-bottom boat
on a glassy sea;
yes, that's the life
I so long to see.

Skimming across
both the deep and shallow,
leaving my faith
to rest in the fallow.

What's this you say?
There's a storm in the air?
How could you abandon me?!
How could you not care?!

As the waves overcome,
tossing life to and fro,
my questions pile up;
so much I don't know!

The boat I was on
isn't shaped like I dreamed;
its hull Vs into the water
much deeper than it seemed.

Where once I sought answers
to questions I could bear,
now I'm thrown overboard,
life torn, open and bare.

In over my head,
too far from the shore,
not sure I can handle
one gut-kick more.

Holding my breath
beyond human tears,
daring not to exhale,
overcome by my fears.

Like Job, I won't settle
for clich├ęd replies.
Keep your sacharined Jesus;
I've shredded those lies.

I need a companion
who'll sit on the floor,
cry with me a while,
then cry with me some more.

We'll shout toward the heavens,
let loose our hot rage;
then rest in the bosom
of the One without age.

And when this rock sinks
to the floor of the sea,
we'll breathe underwater,
we'll sing joyfully;

not because we have answers,
not because we've no pain,
but because we've found breath
in God's presence again.
 
Photo by Holly Jenkins
© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Left the Building


Elvis did it, and folks
have been talking about it
and looking for him ever since.

Expectation, hope, and energy
give imaginations wanderlust
as the next sighting is anticipated.

As followers of the risen Christ 
passed faith's torch to generations,
the Greek name "ecclesia" stuck:
church, or "the called-out ones".

Now, we casually use that noun
to describe architectural structures,
sometimes forgetting the body
of people whom messiah calls out.

Give us hearts and ears, O God,
to answer, so it may once again
be said and seen in word and deed,
"The church has left the building!"

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Meeting

Where will you go to meet
the God of all creation?

The 139th psalmist declares
that there is no place you can go,
no place you can stay
where God has not already been
and where God is not currently present.

John's gospel prologue invites you
to experience the Word incarnate.
In the flesh and the neighborhood
are the places where divine self
shines through time and space.

New question: What will you do,
today, to pay attention to more
of the places and ways that God
is hanging, helping, and hoping
the universe into the sacred garment
of love, the holy gift of grace?
 
Detroit Riverwalk, PCUSA General Assembly 221

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Deliver Us, O Lord...

... from theological inbreeding
that seeks to convince us
that mirrored spiritual reflections
of ourselves are what will bring
peace and contentment
to our churches and
will usher your kingdom
into and onto the earth.

... from intellectual entrenchment
that would have us believe
that there is an educational and
understanding finish line
to which we are close.

... from cultural xenophobia
that squeezes fear's adrenal gland,
blinding us to the joy and gift
of creation's wonderful diversity.

... from Mammon's addiction
that disorients our passion receptors
and anesthetizes our hearts
so that we believe
it is both possible and appropriate
to love things and possess people.

... from all else that would
separate us from the grace
of your unconditional love.
Photo from PCUSA General Assembly 221 Exhibit Hall


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Monday, June 16, 2014

Spirited

As one committee debates
the finer points of polity,
wrangling over how to provide
balance in the perspectives
presented on its overtures,

spirited singing wafts through
the temporary walls defining parameters
of the committee meeting
in the adjacent room.

Order and Ardor continue
their essential primordial dance,
partnering to keep Chaos at bay
without strangling divine Breeze.

Lord, give us grounding
in the midst of Hurricane Angst;
also give our luggage greased wheels
and smooth zippers as we face
our rotting branches and hollow trunks.
 
Photo by Todd Jenkins

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, June 15, 2014

These 3

(for Joanie Lukins, Helen Morrison, and Joyce Shin)


Faith, Hope, and Love, yes;
but also faces, stories, lives;
Joanie, Helen, Joyce.

For the prophet voices,
full of bold compassion,
eyes afire with Justice's glow,

give us courage to heed
and follow Spirit poured
upon these three and more.

May we be emboldened,
catching their visions,
dreaming their dreams,

living toward the day
when teaching isn't needed;
grace will flow from every well.


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rise

The worship bulletin indicates
instructions for its asterisks:
*Please rise in body or Spirit.

How many times have I
perfunctorily executed the former,
completely oblivious to the call
and possibility of the latter?

Whether or not you gift my body
with strength, flexibility, and
balance to stand in worship,

let me never miss your
gathering invitation to be Spirited;
to stretch and expand
the vertical pathway for your breath,

that I may expire all
that clouds and constricts,
and inspire your living hope.
Photo by Jennie R. Jenkins

© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Carpe Noctem

Photo by Todd Jenkins

Night is not just a part
of the universe's regular cycle.
It's also a part of every life;

the part that often derails
our portfolio and life-reckoning.
On our own, as social
and religious organizations,

we usually develop a two-fold plan:
(1) Escape; or
(2) Carry a big torch.

What if it's the place we're meant
to enter into more deeply,
sans artificial illumination,
not as punishment or divine indifference,

but because its pall
awakens anesthetized senses
and slows us to feel our way
more deeply into purpose and hope?

Would you tentatively step,
reach out a probing hand,
risk your little knowing
for an invitation to be held
in infinite mystery's embrace?


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Surprise

I'm sure the Holy Spirit gifts us
with coincidences that confirm and support
what we were already thinking
and wanting to do.

I'm also sure she regularly
shows up to challenge
our assumptions and convictions.

The one of these arrivals to which
we are most receptive and attuned
depends on our primary source
of hope and the degree to which we view
faith as arrival or journey.

True surprise comes, welcome or not,
when her light reveals glimpses
of our shadow selves,
daring us to rethink sacred maps.

Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Flinging It

I watched one vehicle turn left,
nearly into the path of another.
It wasn't so much a near-miss,
as the airlines have coined it,
as it was an opportunity
for something to go wrong.

Rather than instinctively braking
to remedy the situation,
the oncoming driver threw her left hand
out her window, curling it
over the roof of her car,

and flung her middle finger
toward the now-missed
(no thanks to her),
already-turned truck.

No horn, no scream,
just the central projectile
from her manual five-shooter.

She looked like a cowgirl
in a 1950s B-movie, slinging bullets
toward the bad guys.

Is this what our society has come to –
rage on-demand, against anyone
who dares to make choices
that might inconvenience or impede us?
Grace, O Grace, to where has
your gift been exiled?
 
Photo by Todd Jenkins
© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Friday, June 6, 2014

Written

Roads are meant
to be traveled;
journeys, prayed.

It's not just the body,
or even the mind
that traverses these
deeper paths; it is
also the narratives and
all their characters.

There is but one storyteller
who speaks the truth
of who we are into existence,
chapter after chapter.

Creation is a love story
and we are all tiny couplets
of hope in each day's unfolding.
 
Photo by Todd Jenkins
We do not know when
the story will reach its conclusion,
or have any idea how,

but we've been this author's characters
long enough to recognize
that mercy is the plot
and grace the final crescendo.

Write on!


© 2014 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Risking Pentecost

When the resurrected Christ ascended,
the disciples went into organization mode,
promptly replacing Judas as a first order of business.

The Holy Spirit broke out,
like end-of-game fireworks
accidentally unleashed in the fifth inning.

The institutional church has roped off
a tidy little section for Pentecost,
with red balloons, streamers, and pinwheels.

And the Holy Spirit laughs
to keep from crying,
exploding everywhere, noticed or not.

Bushes aren’t the only thing burning;
hearts and lives overflow daily
with forgiveness, love, and grace.

Give us courage, O God,
to risk our lives and selves
to your daily Pentecosts!
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

© 2014 Todd Jenkins