Monday, August 31, 2015

If Only

Photo by Anne Shurley

History is much colder
than you ever imagined,
far warmer than you’ve dreamed,

   more dangerous than you ever thought,
   less glamorous than we’ve written it,
   and even more boring
   than the latest generation sees it.

To be sure, there are many lessons
to be learned from its study;
but we dare not fool ourselves
into believing the version currently playing
at the Rialto of Memory Lane
is any less a fairy tale than the stories
we read to our grandchildren.

   When we see ourselves
   as its preservationists,
   we would do well to remember
   that the thing to which we naturally cling
   is mostly a figment of skewed reminiscence;

that our own constitutions
would likely wilt beneath the weight
of its actual ancient burden;
and that its primary purpose
is to give us wisdom and courage
to move forward, not to seduce us,
siren-like, to wistfully turn back.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, August 28, 2015

Prodigal Chorus

Photo by Jerry Gorman

Hallelujah! You're not the only one.
Hallelujah! We're all on the run.

Some of us from life,
and some of us from love.

All of us slopping our chosen hogs.
Each of us throwing life to the dogs.

All of us practice the groveling speech.
Each of us feeling out of reach.

All of us trudging toward a home place.
Each of us longing for his embrace.

Hallelujah! I see Pops coming on the run.
Hallelujah! Like I'm the only one.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Even Closer

Photo by Jennie Roberts Jenkins

I thought you weren't there
   because I couldn't feel you
      for the intensity of my circumstances.

The feelings of your gentle, general
   presence were wiped away
      by the trauma I faced.

As I learn to read the story
   over again, I see you are everywhere
      so close and surrounding me,
         especially when night's at its darkest.

What I thought and felt
   as your absence was
      an intensity of presence
         for which I had no reference point.

"Trust" you whisper. "Hold on,
   because I'll never let go of you."

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Photo by Jason Goodman

         Once you catch even
         the tiniest fragmentary glimpse
         of divine mystery,

      it becomes crystal clear
      that all methods,
      measurements, and paradigms

   for describing God
   are woefully inadequate
   to carry the meaning
   of Love and Grace
   all by themselves.

Even if we piled every
current understanding
on top of all the holy
descriptions of history,
they still wouldn't reach
half way up Grace's hillside.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


The greatest seduction
in seeking solutions
to our problems –
collectively and individually –

is wedging enough
visible difference between
our shared humanity
to create an other
onto whom we can offload
all blame and responsibility.

Politics, religion, and
most institutions succumb
to this temptation all too often,
neglecting two components
of hope and resolution:

our own complicity
in the story, and
our universal need
for and responsibility
to one another.

Reconciliation and way forward
require cessation of divisiveness,
greasing of the gate hinges, and
rekindling of community's flame.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, August 24, 2015


Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

“I’m a student of life!”
she proclaims, as if
graduation were the farthest
thing from her mind –
or at least from her heart.

   How does this attitude work
   in the real world,
   where “control issues”
   pop-up at every corner,
   insisting we get a grip?

      In life’s adolescence –
      a period not necessarily confined
      to years ending in “teen” –
      hands and minds squeeze racquetballs
      in order to strengthen their clench.

   Suffocation begins when
   a fourth and fifth “R” –
   Relationships and Religion –
   succumb to the hands of control;
   there is no room for love,
   much less for God, if we’re unable
   to liberate the marionette strings.

Learning to relax and release
is a lifelong course;
a crucial one for receiving
a degree of/in Grace.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Quarter Note

Music's math has the ability
   to expand the reach of poetry.

Melodies and harmonies
   are divine magic by themselves,
      but add the surprise
         of lyrics' overlay, and fresh air
            breathes in and out
               of places we've forgotten exist.

The notes' fractional pacing,
   woven with poetry's minimalism,
      lets words be absorbed
         in our core, storying hope and
            healing in ways surpassing amazing.

A good 3-5 minute song,
   with a depth of both tune
      and lyrics, can deliver
         gospel truth in 1/4 the time,
            and often more effectively,
               than a decent sermon.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, August 21, 2015


Photo by Owen Jenkins

Somewhere around my fifth birthday, my older brother and I received a Pitch-Back as a gift. It's a trampoline of sorts that sits at an upright angle. When a ball is thrown against the mesh netting, the recoil action bounces the ball back to the thrower. Woven into the center of the netting is a rectangular target, or strike zone.

Over a five or six year period, I honed my pitching skill and my imagination in our back yard. Stepping off the proper distance between the plate and mound for Little League, I spent countless afternoons striking out the likes of Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and even Babe Ruth, in my mind. Though I didn't understand the science of it, my body’s pitching motion was developing muscle memory, which still allows me, to this day, to throw a baseball with considerable consistency.

Throughout my life, I've learned to throw many things with accuracy. It's a game my brother and I often played. We'd grab a dirty shirt or pair of socks from the floor, wad them into a "ball", step across the room, and see who could most accurately toss them into the hamper. We'd do the same thing, competing to see who could ring the trash can with crumpled paper, bottles, cans, and pretty much anything we could find.

I usually won. Of course, my brother is not around to contradict me, but it's true anyway; not because I was a superior athlete, but because I spent more than five years of my life in the back yard with the Pitch-Back. And because my brain seems to have a pretty good auto-calculation function that adjusts for things like weight, distance, and even drag/wind-resistance.

What difference does this make? Unless the International Olympic Committee decides to create an adaptability event, where athletes toss random objects from varying distances into a variety of goals and cups, this particular skill seems to be superfluous. But it's not.

Okay, the physical skill itself probably has extremely limited application. But the concept translates well into organizational leadership, especially in the church. Though the church you serve and call home may not overzealously embrace a "We've always done it this way!" vision for the future, such an approach is a common and comfortable mode in institutional religion.

To quote an old hymn, many denominations and congregations rally 'round the cry, "It was good for Paul and Silas, and it's good enough for me." without realizing that Paul and Silas practiced the gospel in ways that were specific to their culture and context, neither of which are similar to twenty-first century USA.

Changes in technology and culture are both accelerating and unsettling. In order for the church to remain faithful and relevant, a balance between tradition and adaptation must be maintained. Here are some of the key questions we need to ask:

  • What are the core components of our faith?
  • How do we practice these?
  • Why do we practice these?
  • How can we best convey these first three answers to the current generation?
  • With respect to the gospel, what's the difference between the method and the message?

I believe a solid grounding in our faith practices is what provides us with spiritual muscle memory to effectively proclaim the message, and an openness to flexibility and creativity will allow us to adapt the method so that it reaches people in our current culture.

Let the conversation begin, or continue, whichever the case may be!

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, August 20, 2015


"Let our hearts not be hardened 
to those living on the margin.
There is room at the table for everyone.
This is where it all begins, 

this is how we gather in.
There is room at the table for everyone."
(from Carrie Newcomer's "Room at the Table")

Why do we need it?
How much is enough?

The irony of our current
political climate's disdain
for government is this:

the more ruthless and self-serving
the monetarily-motivated become,
the more government we need
to prevent mortal pillaging
of the powerless and voiceless;

and the more government
complexity/bureaucracy we have,
the less flexible and
efficient it becomes.

Privatization for profit
is not the answer.

Public discourse and
community restoration,
where all are invited
to the table, are.

Where is the off-button
for our escalating insanity?
Will we find both it and
the courage to act
more responsibly before
an implosion point is reached?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

3 Strands

A church on the way
   toward healing, wholeness,
      and stretching toward holiness,

has a three-strand cord,
   or maybe it's a three-string chord,
      by which it both swings and sings
         toward its sacred calling.

First, is the story belonging
   to each of its congregants.
      It is their unique history;

their personal narrative
   of love and loss,
      holding and hurting,
         joy and sorrow,
            a story needing to be
               fully known and owned.

Second, a congregational novel:
   ways the gathering souls
      have tried to become

the blessed, broken,
   poured out, and shared
      body of Christ in a
         particular place, spanning
            the entirety of their existence,
               also becoming readily repeatable.

Photo by Mary Lou Dumas Sgarlato

 The third, a story whispered
   by the Holy Spirit
      into the listening ear
         of the people as they
            worship and serve together,

as their spirits are marinated
   in the Word made flesh's story,
      love daily unfolding
         into their living, breathing.

As this third tale materializes,
   the other two are healed,
      softening their strands and stanzas,
         so the trio can be braided
            into an autobiography of grace,
               singing a new adventure of hope.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I write. It’s what I do, but it’s also who I am. In response to contemplative prayer, scripture’s study, devotional readings, news reports, and life itself, I write.

It used to be exclusively prose; long paragraphs and thorough explanations. I thought more detail was better; that others would understand more fully if I painted the whole verbal mural for them. Then, about 15 years ago, words began to overwhelm me; my words, others’ words, books, magazines, journals, newsfeeds, TV. Too many words!

Then came things I needed to say but for which I didn’t have all the necessary words. Hard things; heart things; holy things. One day – I can’t remember exactly when – less words became enough. There was punctuation and blank space all around my words, and I could hear the words breathe. It was a sigh of relief from an exhausted mule, tired of plowing solo.

My words took the shape of poetry. Not so much in its traditional form. More like prayers, slowly breathed, in-between silence. And in the expansive room created by less wordiness I heard other people’s hearts beating, other stories filling in the blanks.

It was prayer, but also poetry. One day when I was poking my veins for a way to describe it, I wrote “prayer poetry”, then took my pen, marking through the middle four letters: 
prayer poetry. Prayetry was left.

You’ll usually find photos with my shared prayetry, because pictures both speak and beckon us to speak so many words left unsaid.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, August 17, 2015


Earlier today, I had a wonderful opportunity to sit with a diverse group including scholars, chaplains, pastors, theologians, and writers. We were around the dining table in a friend’s house. It was like being in church, before church was defined by buildings, programs, doctrine, and dogma. It was a holy place, space, and time. We were nourished.

When invitation to the table comes,
even hell and high water aren't excuse.

Hospitality is a gifter who knows
neighbor’s way as far superior
to highway, and kinder than my way.

Agua fresca’s agave and honeydew
refreshed and invited our introductions.

What did we eat, I wonder?
Platters and plates heaped
with more than mere nutrition;

the true pièce de résistance
was the Word, peeled, shared.

Not pieced and parsed, mind you,
but spoken as sacred cuisine,
from which our nourishment is sourced.

Fruit of meaning was melon
reminding us that reading the menu
pales compared to actually partaking.

Garden vegetables crunched,
succulent with summer’s wealth,
giving us the vitamins of discourse.

Chocolate, dark, fire and all,
sweetened and enlivened our conversation,
revealing surprising subtleties.

Elijah went forty days into the wilderness
on the strength of hot-stone bread and water.
I will surely last as long.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


It's a road leading
to a place seemingly
impossible to reach;

a person who has
learned how self's pain,
as unique and
incomprehensible as it is,
still has the ability
to connect with another's anguish;

a heart whose cracks learn
to let Grace's living water
ingress and egress
with healing honesty;

a gift from above
opening within
to mediate incarnation
in its simplest form.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Photo by Cassie Hutchins

The spiritual path opens us
    to pay attention to the sacred
        in every ordinary moment,

to see our own reflection
    and the divine reflection
        in every face, and

to find our own narrative
    and the divine narrative
        in every person’s story.

These three are
    the holy trinity of life:
        moments, faces, stories;

through them, on them,
    and by them, the realm
        of paradise is woven.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Go Home

Mark 2:11 “I say to you, stand up, 
take your mat and go to your home."

   Jesus spoke these words
   to a paralyzed man
   who was lowered
   through the roof by friends.

      It was a declaration
      of freedom, proclaimed
      to a man who had no idea
      he'd already been set free.

         Can you imagine
         how unburdening
         these words were?
         If not for gravity,
         he might have floated away.

      I long for the day
      when all water saints
      hear those words.
   "Initiating Partners, take up
   your luggage and go home,
   the world is water-safe
   for all God's children."

"Operating Partners, continue
to take up your water bottles
and deliver them
to all the homes
where safe water is needed.
You are the healing and
sustaining arms of hope."

So let it be written;
so let it be lived and loved!

© 2015 Todd Jenkins