Saturday, October 31, 2015


There are a lot of things
that work perfectly well
when they're borrowed:

your neighbor's lawn mower,
your mom's wedding dress,
lunch money, a good book,
or your roommate's jacket.

Then there are borrowing disasters:
anyone's identity, 
someone else's dignity,
a vocation for which
you have no passion.

And the thing which is entirely
beyond the realm of borrowing:
another's theology.

I don't just mean your parents'
or your grandparents' or
your neighbor's.
I also mean a church's or
a long-dead theologian's.

Theology is from two Greek words,
"theos" which means God,
and "logos" which means
words or talk.

It's a conversation, then,
between you and God –
an ongoing dialogue about
your particular here-and-now life:

why you are where you are
and what you can do
to make the world around you –
including your very own self –
not just more tolerable,
but also more joy-filled.

Learn from others' God-conversations,
but never try to convince yourself
that their words/circumstances are yours.

Listen some more.

It's what we're here to do;
how we're meant to be.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Serving God

Prayer Before the Meal
Middle Tennessee Presbytery Peacemakers Banquet
October 29, 2015

Plowing God, we are sore in need of your clod-busting. For all the ways you break apart the rigid surface of our comfort and security, turning us under and into the fertile mixture of creation’s humus, so that we might find our existential purpose, we sing to you our alleluias. 
Hear our prayer, O plowing God!

Planting God, we are eternally grateful to have been created in your image, imprinted with holy DNA. For the mystery and miracle of agriculture, both literal and metaphorical, as we are sunk into the places for which you created us, allowing us to bear fruit worthy of your name, we weave our thanksgiving. 
Hear our prayer, O planting God!

Watering God, we are parched by the distractions and detours we have experienced in the wilderness of fear and the deserts of our own choosing. For the flow of life-giving water that quenches thirst of body, mind, and spirit, we pour our gratitude. 
Hear our prayer, O watering God!

Warming God, without the BTUs of your infinite compassion, we would be frozen solid, completely incapable of life, much less of reflecting your light. For the ways you shine hope into the shadows of our lives and world, we give you thanks. 
Hear our prayer, O warming God!

Weeding God, we are easily choked by the vine of material possessions, convinced of our blessedness and quick to hide and hoard. For the tug of your love, uprooting all that separates us from your nurturing presence, we lift our hearts in praise. 
Hear our prayer, O weeding God!

Gathering God, we are blessed to count ourselves among your gatherings. Like a harvest tended all season, pruned and prepared for just such a time as this, brought together with one another to celebrate your gracious gifts, we bring the joy of your gift to the table. 
Hear our prayer, O gathering God!

Spicing God, we are amazed at the ways you blend myriad portions of your creation into savory dishes. For the ways you surprise us with subtle mixtures and pairings we’d never imagine on our own, with enough of your sacred abundance to satisfy the world’s hunger at every level, we rejoice in your recipes. 
Hear our prayer, O spicing God!

Simmering God, we are in constant need of your culinary fire. For your steady heat, softening hearts and minds to see the unifying nature of our holy purpose, gently stirring us so we don’t stick and burn, we waft the steam of our acquiescence. 
Hear our prayer, O simmering God!

Serving God, we continually need reminding to turn and look outward. For the rhythmic cadence of your call to share your shalom, be your peace, and live your salam, we lift our overflowing hearts. 
Hear our prayer, O serving God! Amen. 

© 2015 Todd Jenkins


Photo by Joe Stephenson

         The river feels wide;
      I cannot see the bottom,
      but I know it must
      also be deep.

   As I sit on its bank, I see
   a ship coming downstream.
   Something's wrong.
   The ship is listing.

If I knew the distinction
between starboard and port,
I could tell you
which way it was leaning.

   Whichever way it is,
   it must not be port
   because this vessel isn't going
   to make it to shore.

      There is one person
      visible on deck.
      I strain my eyes
      to identify him.
      It is me.

         Have you ever
         watched yourself sink?

      Helpless, or so it seems,
      the journey you always thought
      you were on is ending,
      not as the brochure described it,
      in some glorious destination,
      but at the bottom of the river
      in the middle of nowhere.

   He -- that is, me --
   is standing there,
   holding firmly to the rail,
   defying gravity as the water level
   rises and consumes him --
   that is, me --
   at a surreal angle.

At first, I panic, knowing full well
that I'm drowning.
Then I realize that the ship
is not my life.

   It's just my dream;
   the plan that's danced
   on and off the stage of my heart
   for the last 28 years.

      Have you ever noticed
      how the word "just"
      often feels like
      a slap in the face?

         A while back, someone told me
         I could breathe underwater.
         I tried not to laugh, because
         I thought she meant it.
         Now, I'm hoping she was serious;
         praying she isn't delusional.

      I look down at my
      on-the-river-bank self.
      My clothes are soaking wet;
      muddy, too.
      Apparently, I can breathe
      underwater. I am.

   I'm going to sit here
   and let the wind dry me.
   I hear another ship
   rounding the bend.

Where do you think
this one's going?

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Photo by Ben Padgett

In its Latin roots lie
a penciled sketch
of prophetic proportions;

signaling an arrival of one
with ears and eyes
attuned to divine whisper;

one who studies history,
neither to advocate its worship
nor avoid its repetition;

but to pull us toward tomorrow's chapter
by grounding us in
a narrative of holy presence.

Weave us, O inaugurated one,
into an institution with dreams
of grace's realm; speak us into leaders
with gospel courage and compassion;

walk with us into a resurrected church;
where forgiveness overflows,
love is deeply breathed, and
hope's well quenches all thirst.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, October 26, 2015


Bow to it.
   Wink at it.
      Envy it.
         Fear it.
            Lust for it.

These are but five facets
   of the same pentagon:

Recognize it as
   a gift from creation,
      a tool for doing good,
         a responsibility to community.

These are the trinity of hope.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Past Tense

When people bring up
   our past, using it
      as a substitute for
         the here-and-now us,
      they are attempting
   to create tension
out of history.

Never mind that they've
   never considered who they were
      and what they believed,
         said, and did way-back-when.

If who we were long ago
   is who we are now,
      we've probably wasted
   all those years; but

if we've learned differently
   and better, if we've grown
      and become both more giving
   and forgiving, then grace
has seen the light of our days.

Don't let the dredging
   of past tense pull you
      back out to sea
   by its undertow.

Swim across, not against
   the riptide, and let
      grace’s waves bring you
   to love’s secure shore.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Zoo Keeping

Photo by Joe Stephenson

      We are forever wanting
      to abduct history’s great imaginations,
      safely domesticating them;

   but in so doing,
   we ​cage them
   in intellectual zoos,

square-pegging them
into safe, round holes
of our own digging,

   completely destroying
   their untamed strength,
   denaturing their virility,

      eventually suffocating them
      with the noose
      of our own interpretation.

   The ideas themselves
   cannot be so captured,
   because they are wild and free,
   roaming the universe’s cerebral plains.

All our attempts squeeze
only a single elucidation,
and that, only for a moment,

   itself no more representative
   of the whole than stick figures
   against the wildebeest
   in its natural element.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

No Bananas

Photo by Allen Black
As I sit by the river,
dangling my feet
in the cool water,
longing to refresh my heart
by quieting my mind,

I hear them coming 
around the upstream bend;
finally catching sight 
of a single monkey,
in a flimsy canoe.

Strong-arming his paddle,
perpendicular to the flow,
he slowly drifts toward me,
eyes pleading.

He is followed by a larger vessel
with several monkeys on board.
They kill the outboard motor
and engage the trolling motor,
drifting sideways, so that
I can look directly into
their insatiable eyes.

The final craft in this flotilla
is a large river paddleboat.
Knowing that I would be here,
its captain has already
let the paddle wheel
cease its forward churn.

I stare into a sea
of starving primate pupils,
each one begging.

This is the arrival 
of negative monkeys 
each morning;
haunting, hungry, beseeching.

I used to try to kill them;
dreaming of picking them off,
one by one, centering them
in the crosshairs of my zeal.

Each time I did, they morphed
into clones of righteous indignation
that I grabbed to club
others’ naysaying monkeys,
wincing as my own blood flowed.

This day, I wave and smile,
showing them my empty hands.
My heart whispers,
“I have no bananas for you,
but I wish you peace
as the river carries you downstream.”

Most days they circle back,
sometimes once more,
other times twice or thrice,
disbelieving that I will not
offer them nourishment.

Finally, disappointed and unfed, 
they set their faces
toward the ocean.
Mine tilts toward hope;
toward a holy “yes”.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Monday, October 19, 2015


“You keep saying that word. I do not think it means 
what you think it means.” (“The Princess Bride”)
Photo by Ben Padgett

It's not someone who clings
   to a past interpretation
      of national identity,
         withdrawing amendments
      1 or 2 or both, worshiping them
   as if they are, in static interpretation,
the be-all and end-all of our existence.

It's not a force field we can activate,
   protecting us from present
      or future examination
   of our actions or interpretations
re our country's founding documents.

If we want to hitch our wagons
   to those who carved this word
   out of their selfless actions
and into their collective identities,

we're going to have to let
   our own energy and enterprise
      be examined in the harsh candlelight
   of the present and the withering
starlight of the future.

History is the root
   of today's loyalty,
not its fruit.

We are gardening
   for patriotism's grapes,
not digging for its peanuts.

The future will judge us,
   not for how we held our ground
      through hell and high water,
   but by how freely we tended
and pruned the vine of hope.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Dissociation is an
adolescent form of identity,
whether manifested
in individuals or institutions.

Most teenagers, one way
or another and sooner or later,
figure out that,
"I'm not like you!"
neither gives us
a sense of moral or
other superiority, 
nor tells us who we really are.

Once this threshold
is reached, where the emptiness
of difference-shaming is revealed,

the way forward
is through expanding community;
by realizing our differences
are much smaller and
far less consequential
than our simpler selves imagined.

© 2015 Todd Jenkins

Friday, October 16, 2015

The End of Yourself

Photo by Owen Jenkins

If anything but
"I don't know."
is what you find
at the end of yourself,

   I'm pretty sure you
   haven't reached the end,
   but only found a safe place
   to pull over for a while;

      because divine mass and velocity
      are forever at our limits,
      and "I don't know."
      is the truest part
      of our margins.

   A local church marquee
   recently quoted Fr. Cavanaugh
   from the movie, “Rudy”:
   "There is a God
   and I am not Him."

Yep; that pretty much
sums it up.
When you've experienced this,
you're ready to become an artist,

   creating with and from your very life
   the metaphors and imaginings
   of your richest dreams,
   both waking and sleeping.

      Take courage.
      All the brave ones have painted
      this truth without embellishing.

   © 2015 Todd Jenkins