Friday, July 31, 2015

Religious & Spiritual

Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins

At its – and our – best,
religion is a community and
a window through which
people glimpse, desire, and
pursue spiritual journey.

The true test of religion's
cultural component comes when,
at ever-changing locations
on a spiritual path,

we are challenged to continue
gathering with people
who both reside in and travel  
to a place named Other.

It is here the Kenyan
proverb speaks her truth:
"If you want to go fast,
go alone. If you want
to go far, go together."

Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Photo by Jerry Gorman

When I didn't give you
   what you wanted,
      it wasn't because
         I didn't want to or
            I don't love you.

            Whether or not
         it was what you needed –
      an important distinction
   you need to make –
it was not mine to give.

Whatever it is you think
   will make you happy,
      or even bring you joy,
         you'll have to
            give it to yourself, or
               at least accept it in yourself.

               Here's the great mystery of life:
            IT is already within you,
         and always has been;
      that divine spark of love
   with which you were graced
before you were born.

Your mistake is
   to believe ego's lie
      that whatever you've done
         and whomever you've been
            or become has somehow
               extinguished that fire.

            You're not that powerful,
         love has no such weakness,
      and grace is exponentially
   larger than that.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

By the River

Photo by Jerry Gorman

There we sat, singing first
   the songs we knew,
      then ones we’d only heard once,
         and, finally, as the horizon
      swallowed the red ball of fire,
   we sang new songs –
ones we’d never even heard.

It wasn’t Babylon, but it
   might as well have been.
      We were learning to let go
         of parts of what we’d always
      known to be true; kinds of things
   that, when squeezed tightly,
keep you from seeing bigger truths.

Our open hands trembled
   as the water washed across them,
      baptizing us with a hope
   we now knew more deeply
than we ever imagined possible.

We arrived with filters and magic –
   or technology as we’ve named
      and tamed it all these years –
   yet found ourselves wrapped
in a shawl far more holy and life-giving.

The stories, new friends, lives shared
   freely and without hesitation,
      all caused the water to flow like grace,
   into and out of our own brokenness,
“Safe water for a generation!”

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins

The feels we have are filtered ones,
always subject, like UV,
to the glasses of the life we've lived;

each as unique as our particular story;
none even close to a carbon copy.
Yours are yours, mine are mine,
no one authorized to invalidate them,
including our very own selves.

The best we can do – the way forward –
is to give them free reign deep inside;
to let them unfurl, unhindered,
within the confines of our soul.

Give them the pen/keyboard,
so they may fully convey
deepest and richest passion
to our narrative's protagonist.

Then read the story again.
When we find the earlier chapters
from which they are foreshadowed,
and the already-trod ground
from which they're fertilized,

we will begin to see how
they may be woven into
this week's chapter healthfully.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, July 27, 2015


         It's been said that
         the prize of victory
         includes the privilege
         of writing history.

   In many cases, this is true,
   especially when international conflict
   ends in total surrender.

But one of the strange consequences
from the hellish incivility
of the mid-nineteenth century war
waged within our nation's bowels,

   brother against brother,
   is that each side had the opportunity
   to write its own version –
   at least the white sides.

      And now, 150 years later,
      the aftermath of these dueling histories,
      along with the stories still-buried,
      from those middle-caught, voiceless,
      is the bitter fruit of both
      our silence and our discord;

   waving in flags of defeated battlefields
   resurrected when history taught 
   bumps up against reality altered,
   and Emancipation’s lament
   marches us farther down Justice’s road.

Peace remains in the hallway,
whispering her plea for ears
willing to listen, daring us to hear
others’ stories, even when
their truth challenges our own.
Photo by Joe Stephenson

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, July 25, 2015


Photo by Owen Jenkins
We confess, O God,
   that we have become accustomed
      to making do with the baskets
         of leftover bread and fish
            taken up after your gracious feast.

All the while, our senses
   have become oblivious
      to your Holy Spirit
         pulling fresh-baked loaves
            out of the oven,
               right under our noses,
                  all day long.

Awaken us, O Lord,
   that we might once again
      learn how to see, hear, touch,
         smell, and taste the bread of life
            that's piled on the banquet tables
               of our lives every day.

Give us hearts of generosity,
   that we might learn to live
      the ways of your amazing grace,
         through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, July 24, 2015

Grow & Turn

One of PowerPoint's
animation styles
is named "Grow & Turn".

It allows you to call attention
to newly-appearing text
by having the selected portion
begin tiny and vertical,
and then rotate to
a horizontal position
as it also enlarges.

The text, then, actually appears
to both grow and turn
as it settles and becomes legible.

I cannot help but think
of the life of faith
in relationship to this phrase.

The Greek word that we translate
as repent literally means to turn.
Faith is a journey on which
we are continually learning,
 forever stretching, and
constantly recalculating (turning).

Can't you just hear Jesus
inviting the disciples (and us)
to so animate our lives –
to "Grow & Turn"?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, July 23, 2015


If our ecclesial vision
is limited to a corporate model
of planning our work
and working our plan;

    if it's little more than a strategy
    to go where we want to go
    – where we feel comfortable going – 
    then we have missed out
    on God and gospel altogether.

Vision, as it defines the church,
is about settling down long enough
to imagine all of creation
through God's heart and eyes;

    about peering through divine lenses
    long enough to be frightened
    by God's plans, but also long enough

to be drawn toward a daunting dream
by the mystery of God that is
anchored in the deep places
where only love and grace
have fully taken root.

    If we're not quaking in our boots,
    and swallowing our hearts,
    we have probably missed the mark.
Photo by Joe Stephenson
© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


We often believe others will recognize their behavior toward us as unacceptable if we mirror it back to them, so they can feel the pain. Here's the secret: they've already felt that pain, and probably know it all too well, because they learned it from someone who treated them the same way. What we all need to feel more of is unconditional love.
Photo by Jerry Gorman
If you want them – and you – to grow beyond transactional and reflective relationships, show them what it feels like to be appreciated for little things, to be given the benefit of the doubt, to be believed without interrogation, to be accepted – not because they flawlessly meet another’s expectation – but because they share an imperfect desire to be loved as they are; and through this acceptance, to be nurtured toward more.

These are signposts along the journey toward joy. They are the gifts we can daily unwrap; the manna on which we can mutually feast in our relationships.  

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Institutional religion
isn't gasping for air.
It is at another crossroads,
for sure; an opportunity fraught
with both risk and possibility.

When, in times like these,
we (re)turn to our narrative
of the incarnate Word
in search of discernment,

we would do well to notice
that the gospel is not so much
spread, and grace not so much
revealed by telling others
where we think they are failing

and how to find God
via the path that found us,
as by people living
and revealing love to others
in their everyday lives.

Love, you see (and Love you see),
is a story that compels us
to set aside differences
trying to divide us, in favor
of commonalities connecting us.

Faith is not a talk, but a walk.
Words, when their time arrives,
must fit within the framework
of already-engaged interaction.

Photo by Mary Dumas Sgarlato

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, July 20, 2015


For all our church-up lives we have bumped up against forgiveness.  We are told, not only that forgiveness is basic and immutable divine nature, but also that God's forgiveness is offered directly and specifically for and to us. Until we allow this promise to be true, there is no plausible hope of forgiveness extending through us, toward others.

Once it begins to flow – once the joy of our own forgiven selves is revealed in the ordinary and painful circumstances of our daily lives – we begin to comprehend, little by little, how much freedom and peace there is in letting go of all the unforgiveness that weighs heavily on our lives. As this mountain of forgiving grace raises us above anxiety and distress, we come to a place where we can begin to trade our own expectations for something larger.

This expansive exchange is the place where hope is born. Not a lesser hope of our own little expectations dressed-up in their Sunday best, but the grand unfolding of creation's intricate promise. It is here that we must be willing to forgive the final burden to our joy: reality.

That's right. Until we can allow the unpredictable, sometimes-painful, and always-surprising nature of our own particular reality’s carpet to roll out without judgment or condemnation, forgiveness' ultimate gift will continue to remain just beyond our reach. The amazing paradox of forgiving reality is that it is both an end and a beginning; for when we can find a path toward forgiving reality, all other forgiveness is woven into and enriched through this journey.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, July 10, 2015


Photo by Joe Stephenson

“Where DID those words come from?” I first asked myself this question during the last conversation I had with my mother. It was Friday afternoon, April 18, 1986, and Jennie and I had just arrived at my parents’ home in Perry, FL. We were there because dad called me, mid-morning, while I was on my Snap-On Tool route in Valdosta, GA, and said, “You need to come home. Your mother’s not going to last much longer.”

It had been almost six weeks – precisely what the Dr. predicted – since her diagnosis of an inoperable, malignant, frontal lobe tumor. She was at home, in bed, as she had been for the past few weeks; sleeping more and more, taking more and more pain medicine to dull the pressure of the growing tumor on her brain.

Dad woke her when we arrived. He had to gently shake her to get her to open her eyes. “Baby, look who’s here to see you!” he said. Her eyes opened brightly, revealing a glow I hadn’t seen since I don’t know when. With the simplicity, reverence, and passion of a five year-old, she spoke quietly.

“What have y’all been doing?”

Without skipping a beat or even thinking, I responded, “We’ve been playing at work.” It was all I could do to keep my vocal chords from vibrating again with, “Where did THOSE words come from?”

She responded, “Well, I’m glad you’re here now.”

About 24 hours later, she breathed another one of those infrequent and desperate gasps for air, and then there were no more breaths to follow. She was gone.

It was years later before I remembered my final conversation with mom, but now I can almost hear it out loud. I’m not sure, but I believe the conversation’s return to my memory may have been triggered by another experience similar to the feeling I had after my answer to mom’s question surprised me, and I thought, “Where did THOSE words come from?”

Only this time, it wasn’t words creating sound waves picked up by nearby eardrums, but words written on the pages of a prayer journal. The more I engaged in and was engaged by contemplative prayer, the more my writings seemed to come from a place that was separate from my brain.

I would hear these words inside me and write them down, but when I went back to re-read them, I had no idea what they meant and no clue from whence they came. It was like my hand was forming the words and sentences without the conscious guidance of my brain.

The collection of thoughts, ideas, and writings began to pile up. When I began to transfer them to digital form, and then use the keyboard to create new ones, their numbers multiplied. First, there were dozens of pages, then hundreds, not including the ones I thought I had figured out enough to share with a group of 140 or so acquaintances via a weekly email I call “Tuesday’s Muse.”

I could sense a presence – a place from which it seemed these words came – and this presence has a life that seems independent from me, despite the fact that I could hear and feel it within me. That’s the source for the word “Muse”, and Tuesday became the default day of the week for the email distribution of these ideas.

Early on in this process, I began to notice my writings were often about things I hadn’t quite figured out. Sometimes, I’m not anywhere near figuring them out, so I go back to them over and over, re-reading them until some event, conversation, or circumstance in my life helps me to make sense of them. Some of these ideas are still works in progress within my life.

In hindsight, I am sometimes able to see, not only that the words precede my understanding, but they even lay the framework for the place where my heart and mind need to travel in order to find peace. It’s like an invitation to a party I know I want to attend, a destination toward which I have yet to discern navigation. The words articulate understanding, and my mind and heart are drawn, by them, toward places I didn’t know existed. These are often places I’ve dreamed about, but need help finding my way to in waking – in living, breathing, and loving.

You might call the voice laying these literary bread crumbs the Holy Spirit. I think that would be a prime suspect in this mystery. Do you know Calliope? 

         "Here rise to life again, dead poetry!
         Let it, O holy Muses, for I am yours,
         And here Calliope, strike a higher key,
         Accompanying my song with that sweet air
         which made the wretched Magpies feel a blow
         that turned all hope of pardon to despair."
                    (Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, Canto I,l.7 to 12)

Detail of “The Muses Urania and Calliope” by Simon Vouet
Whatever name we use to describe this voice, my hope is that its trail leads us to places where we can find and fulfill our created purpose, and where we can more richly share in the joyful abundance of one another’s lives.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, July 9, 2015


“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” (Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit)

It's the nourishment for which
we hunger most deeply,
the thirst we so passionately
long to have quenched.

The world is full of pretenders,
both those who know better
and are manipulating perception
to assuage their deepest fear,

as well as those who tread
gingerly through life,
afraid of knowing anyone
or anything – especially themselves –
at levels deeper than surface;

and most of us spend far too long
as apprentices to this deception
in one of its forms or another.

When we recognize it, especially
for the first time most intimately,
it can be as frightening
as our worst nightmares;
but once it's gone, the emptiness
becomes less anxiety and more ache.

The road toward Real
is a journey named Hope,
and the farther we navigate away
from the anxiety and toward the ache,
the more comfortable and courageous
we become in our own skin.

When you or I overtake
the other along this trail,
I pray we'll have the heart
to walk together for a story or three.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins