Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Maundy Thursday

This is a night of somber remembrance,
when Israel's exodus Passover in Egypt is recalled.

Let us dare to expose ourselves
to the hopelessness of Egyptian slavery,
and the possibility of exodus deliverance.

The Passover sacrifice was costly
not only to the lamb,
but also to its owners.

Let us consider the cost of Passover,
and dare to risk our own costly sacrifice.

Let us worship the God of

risk, possibility, hope, and deliverance.

Truth of Enough

Our blessings are legion,
O Lord, but that doesn't mean
that demons aren't
swirling in our lives,
attempting to possess us.

We find ourselves surrounded
by Consumption and Greed,
by Comparison and Indifference,
by Judgment and Fear.

Cast out all of these
who would influence us
to want more and love less,
 to hoard more and give less.

Show us the lie
of Scarcity that we
may live the truth
of your Abundance.

Into the places where Hurt
and Anxiety have crept,
pour in your Grace
that it may seep
all the way to the marrow
of our souls, and we
may find the truth of Enough.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, March 30, 2015

Genuine Article

If the gospel is for sale,
don't waste your money.

If the advertised product
is future passage to paradise,
but what you get now

is rules that, by following,
prove to yourself, and others
on this limited edition cruise,

that you've won, and others,
who didn't board your ship,
are merely Noah's discards,
don't bother packing your bags.

If what you come away with
is a rich blend of piety and pride,
with condemnation for anyone else
whose ship sailed from another port,

yours is not a journey
toward divine reunion, but
a self-induced competition
that misses creation's purpose.

If the gift you've received
isn't flooding every field
by which your life's river flows,

you don't really have grace at all,
but merely a cheap facsimile,
hastily concocted by Ego and Fear.

Love, set wild and free
into our ordinary lives,
is the universe's genuine article,

transforming all within her grasp
into exuberant chalices of hope
overflowing to quench
every parched soul.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Now

You don't have to plumb the theological depths of scripture to see what God is calling us to be. Just trace the narrative of the Word made flesh and identify his guiding light.

Where is it showing you to go? With whom is it calling you to hang out? How is it instructing you to interact? What is it begging you to share?

Is your life a reflection of his gifts, or of something else; something smaller and lesser, something more manageable? The good news is that, however poorly you have mirrored them so far, the blessings of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love are extended toward you as well; and today is the second-best day to more fully live them in your own flesh and breath.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, March 27, 2015

Only Words


You think that I don't even mean
A single word I say
It's only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away
(from “Words” by the Bee Gees; 1967)

Whoever said, "Words are cheap." was at least partly right. Sometimes, words really are cheap, but not always. Words can be the foundation –  the inspiration – for actions. They can confirm a commitment that is costly, even to the point of death. In this sense, words are not cheap.

But when they lead to nothing, or when they're incongruent with our actions, words are pretty much worthless. This means that we have a choice about the value of our words. Let them be integrated with your living, and your words will be priceless, both to you and to others.


Don Miguel Ruiz’s first rule, in The Four Agreements
Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Easter Up

We add the word “up” to a number of verbs and even a few nouns to make new phrases (pony, listen, step, follow, pass, pay, belly, show, change, catch…). I’m not an English teacher, but I believe that all of these phrases are used as verbs. We are most familiar with the word “Easter” as a noun, but I believe its greatest power lies in our understanding of it as a verb.

More than 10 years ago, most likely during a time of sermon preparation about this time of year, I “heard” (a hearing of the heart, not the ear) a voice use this phrase. "Easter up" she said, as if it was really quite simple – not much different from "cowboy up”. Just put on your spurs, boots, and hat, and settle in the saddle for a long comfortable trail ride.

"I’ve tried eastering-up before, and the ride is seldom comfortable and always frightening," I said. So began another chapter in the willy-nilly book of my life’s journey toward spiritual discipline, and a deeper understanding of the paschal mystery.

"Easter up" she said. “The world we live in is seldom easter-friendly. It knows more about grit than grace, more of proof than faith, all about actuarials instead of resurrection. Easter does not add up in most accounting systems.” Here is the rest of what she told me:

The Spirit calls us to Esther up—to step up and speak up for those whose voice has been stolen by circumstance of time and place, by willful oppression, or by happenstance of disaster; but it is more convenient to Enron out by bailing and blaming someone else, and pocketing the profit of our social and relational insider trading. God’s voice beckons us to Abraham up—to pack lightly and strike out for outrageous promises and dangerous places yet unknown; but it is more comfortable to Jonah out by hunkering down into the safety of our known captivity, or heading in the opposite direction from possibility.

Faith calls us to Moses up—to curl our toes into the holy humus, speak to the fire, and return to the land of our indiscretions in order to struggle for the kingdom buried within; but it is much safer to Herod out by giving in to the voices of paranoia and fear, using our power and control to isolate us even from those who would love us.


The gospel calls us to Easter up—to dare to run to the tomb in hope that it just might be empty, to open the fear-locked door on the outside chance that an unimaginable gift of holy proportions could arrive, to open our eyes to the stranger walking beside us and invite her in to break bread because hospitality could open us to communion with the saints. There are a million reasons not to; countless ways we can find to get "out" instead of "up." But that inner voice in the silence continues to whisper the resurrection invitation: "Easter up."

 © 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Forty Days

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.


Come away with me for a while
to wilderness, desert, or your own neighborhood;
the journey inward is littered with temporal securities,
tossed aside as their worth is examined.

With each letting go comes a mixture
of anxiety and relief, fear and release;
that on which our safety seems propped
faces the dare of letting go, letting down.

Long-time companions are still around,
word and silence, listening and breath;
but our reliance on them has been relegated
to moments of crisis, matters of chaos.

Our suburban securities sufficiently strewn,
the invitation is to reacquaint ourselves
with the basic tools of faithful living,
daring us to trust simplicity again, for the first time.

Sound of the beating heart emerges,
rhythm of measured breathing settles in,
holy words slowly wash over stillness,
graceful Otherness bubbles to the surface.

The only path that leads to resurrection
takes us through the purple haze of pain,
leads us in the dance of suffering,
nails us to the tree of unliving.

The empty tomb cannot be reached
unless we dare to bare ourselves
to rigor mortis’ relentless march,
before the rising sun of grace’s throne.


© 2004 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Where Am I?


After the German Wings crash,
all the jokes about the pearly gates
and St. Peter's gatekeeping role
make me nauseated,

because I keep seeing all
of those families of teenagers,
eager to reunite
with their exchange students,

now just hoping for a chance
to personally view the debris field
as a flimsy substitute for closure.

I want to rage, with Job, 
railing toward the heavens,
"Why couldn't you keep them aloft?!"
even though I know the answer
will still be the same,
"Where were you when the universe's
underpinnings were formed?"

I used to think this was God's
cop-out; a form of,
"Because I'm the parent,
that's why!" Then I became
a husband, father, friend,
who found himself sitting,
hurting with others in the depths
of their pain and loss,

and I realized that part
of what God is saying is,
 "I was there; I am there;
I will be there;

in the remote mountains 
with the recovery teams,
at the airport where the plane
will never land, and in all of the places
where grief's pall is suffocating.

I will be under that heavy blanket,
making sure there’s breathing room.
Where are you?"


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Pony Girl

A good friend of mine, who has worked with me on presbytery committees and with Living Waters for the World for many years, is what I call a Pony Girl. When I first called her that, years ago, I had to explain.

There's an old story (actually a joke, I think) that I vaguely remember about a woman who is an eternal optimist. Upon her death, as the story goes, the Devil had an opportunity to "break" her (Think of the biblical character Job.).  He decided she would be punished by being put in a small room piled high with horse manure. When her punisher returned to the room to revel in his sadism, expecting to find her down, dejected, and ready to recant her faith,  he was disappointed. He found her happily digging through the pile.

Confused and angry, her punisher asked, "What do you think you're doing?!"

She said, with great enthusiasm, "With all this poop, I just know there has to be a pony under here somewhere!"

Over the years, I've realized that this optimism runs much deeper than you might imagine. It's not a Pollyanna or rose-colored glasses simplicity, but rather a faith-grounded hope that refuses to succumb to the woes of outward appearance; a deeply held confidence that, despite current circumstances, Grace will prevail and Love will win.

Will you join me in an openness to and search for a Pony Girl life? Will you be someone who's not afraid to get down and dirty with the messiness of others people’s real lives, because you know that those places are the very ones where God is patiently waiting to unwrap mercy and forgiveness that's got our own name written on it?



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, March 23, 2015

Episodes

It is in the telling of
and listening to stories
that we learn who we are,
whose we are, what we believe,
and what matters to us.

By orally repeating
the episodic cycles of our existence,
we determine the course
of our minds, our hearts,
our hopes, our lives.


The timbre of our recurring narratives
codes our emotional DNA
and the predilection
of our spiritual journey
just as surely as genetics
constructs us physically.


 © 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, March 20, 2015

Signs


They are a powerful drug;
not the roadside kind that tell us
where we're headed or what to buy,
but the grace-balloons that God
drops in the midst of daily life.

Like any powerful pain reliever
or hallucinogenic, they're able
to change how we live.

Like most pharmaceuticals,
there's also a danger that we'll
miss the possibility of transformation
toward which they point,
and get lost, instead,
in the signs themselves.

God's signs point toward a freedom
that comes from trusting in something
far beyond our capacity
to act or imagine.

Addiction to and obsession with
the next sign causes us to miss
the signs' life-altering purpose.

It also precludes us
 from responding
with signs of our own.

Sometimes the message
is just, “Stop looking
for another one and become
a sign for someone else!”


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Present

When you find someone
who self-identifies
as agnostic or atheist, hold her
with your heart, tenderly;

for she is often one
who has rejected
others' notions of God

because those ideas failed
to dig deep enough to reach
the place of her pain.

Don't bother to reason
her toward God.
She doesn't need that,
and neither does God.

You might consider
sitting beside her
in silence for as long
as it takes to reach the ache.

The path from grief to hope
is easiest trod with a companion
who neither speaks nor judges;
faithful presence, the greatest gift.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Nomenclature

HENRY: High Earners, Not Rich Yet.
We're motivated, O God;
driven to achieve and become
all that we're created to be.

Our gaze is toward the stars,
necks ever-craned, eyes ever-strained;
comparing and contrasting,
aiming our "us" toward their "them".

When we come to your house,
not only do we continue the game,
we are also hard pressed
to see where the offering plate
gives any bang for the buck.

 Shift our tectonic plates, O Lord,
that your grace and our worth
may be rejected as transactional
and more fully accepted
as prevenient gifts.

Open your church's coffers,
long-hoarded for rainy days
and noble purposes.

Resurrect her passion
to satisfy hunger, heal brokenness,
gathering the fringes,
and reconciling division.

Connect us by your baptismal covenant;
rename and claim us as your own:
Your Holy World Healed.



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Communion

When we attend churches, synagogues, mosques,  temples, or the gatherings of other worshiping communities, we don't automatically become dangerous because of our religious path; but we do become destructive when we are religious only, and not also on a spiritual journey. Religious roads are divergent, offering people varied paths from which they can begin a search for meaning. Spiritual journeys are convergent, leading people, no matter their beginning point, toward a single destination and a common purpose.

All by itself (as a 3-year-old's psyche is prone to prefer), religion is a horizontal connection that  accentuates differences in ritual and ideology, connecting us with some people and disconnecting us from others. As religion's complement and vertical adhesive, spirituality opens us to a universally shared connection with the divine creator and, therefore, with the rest of God's creatures.

Alone, and especially when it is hijacked by culturally, economically, and socially competitive structures, religion leads us into the ever-shrinking box of protection for self and fear of other, which is a polar opposite state from the one for which we were created. Religion provides us with a point of origin. Spirituality offers us the promise of a destination. Are you merely going wherever your fear drives you, or are you on a spiritual journey that has a specific "somewhere" ahead of you – not just as afterlife pie-in-the-sky, but a life’s journey of active presence?

Religion is a lot about specific ways of doing; spirituality is about ways of living, breathing, and being. Religion teaches us to gather together in like-minded community to share bread and wine. Spirituality shows us our connection to the people around us who are hungry and dares us to also feed them. 



© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, March 16, 2015

Flame

Old Stone Fort Archaeological Park (Manchester, TN)

Faith is really quite simple.
All we are asked to become
is burning bushes, giving voice
to God without being consumed
by the fire; living flames.
Simple? Yes. Easy? 

Actually, impossible
all by ourselves,
but that doesn't stop us
from giving it
the old college try,

which works as well
as the 3-year-old's cry,
with its stubborn tantrums
and "all by myself" attitude.

That's what got us atop
this wilderness mountain
in the first place; which is

precisely the place that God
uses so well to stop us
in our tracks with the light
from someone else's fire.

We are invited to allow
the tinderbox of our own souls
to be ignited, adding our own brief candles
to the heavens’ constellations,   
as Grace's torch never goes out.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Offense

I ran across (i.e. read) something a while back that inspired me to write down this statement: The true self is too large, too grounded to ever take offense. Much later, and separately (or so I thought), these words found their way out of my heart and fingers onto the screen:

Refusing to take offense at another's words or actions, even and especially when offense is intended, is one of the greatest displays of Love's amazing strength. Most people do the opposite, letting ego be offended when none was intended. When we do that, all of our own power has been surrendered to someone else's words, and we become completely dependent on them to retract or reverse the offense we took. In these circumstances, we revert to either making direct accusations (“I can’t believe you…”) or ordering people to confess, based on our assumptive accusations (“Please tell me that you didn’t…”).

Kindness and acceptance are also one of the best ways of disarming destructive power. When you reply, “Thank you.” to words intended for your harm, you not only neutralize the negativity, but you might also effectively flummox intentional perpetrators. Instead of asking, “What did you mean by that?” in response to others’ opinions, while assuming the worst, what would happen if we decided to take their words at their best meaning, or not to bother taking them at all?

Just don't take it. Remind yourself that it's not really all about you. And if it's not all about you, you've got no business taking anything, least of all offense. If you're going to take something that doesn't belong to you, make it a compliment.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Together


If we don't keep ourselves in this together,
we will find ourselves out of it, apart.
Judging others is like
playing relationship-Jenga.

Once you assign motive 
to another's words, actions, or beliefs,
you remove a piece of the tower
from which your shared story is built.

You cannot replace it,
when you realize
what you've done,
no matter how hard you try.

Eventually, the whole thing
comes crashing down, and you're left
with nothing but all the king's horses
and all the king's men.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, March 13, 2015

Showing Up

It sounds so simple,
and yet it is the task
with which we struggle
throughout our lifetime.

Some days, the best we can muster
is a paper-thin facsimile,
completely incapable of knowing
or being known, even by those
we've seen and loved for years.

The greatest tool for increasing
our present-ability to others
is found in prayer's tool belt.

Showing up to listen
to the voice speaking without words,
resting in the silence of presence,
nourishes heart and ears,

opens us to the gift of response-ability,
grounding body, mind, and spirit
in the only place that matters:
the holy here and now.


© 2015 Todd Jenkins