Respecting the awesome power of words!

Wordsmithing

Here's a place where ordinary words attempt to reveal the extraordinary grace of life as we live it. Consume the words; breathe in the blank spaces; travel to the places they take you; enjoy the journey, and the people and places you meet along the way. In these relationships, may the meaning and purpose of your life become more clear.

Latest

Circumference

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Perhaps the human penchant
for scapegoating,
enemy-identifying, denial, and
refusal to accept responsibility,
would be a little less surprising
if we were willing and able
to admit the struggle between
good and evil going on
in each of our hearts
all day long and
most of the night.

The more and longer
we bifurcate reality,
conveniently hopping just over
the good/evil dividing line
each time we redraw it,
the deeper the chasm
of separation we dig.

If ever there was a time
for etching lines –
a season I cannot imagine –  
it is now long past.

Hope calls us to be
making circles, each one
more expansive that the last,
until all stories fit
within the circumference.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Table Talk

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Those who prey upon our angst,
peddling patriotism and nationalism
beneath a thick veneer of anxiety,
glossed-over with a heavy coat
of exceptionalism, do not want us
to pray in the name of the Nazareth one;

at least not to pray
with the honesty and
depth he did.

They do not want us to read
the gospels with open eyes;

at least not to read
them with hearts peeled wide,
so that the ones he welcomed,
the ones he celebrated,
the ones he dined with,
the ones he fed, healed,
and lifted up will be given
a seat at the table.

Fear, and his cousin, Scarcity,
have constructed a tiny world
whose table has a limited,
manageable number of chairs.

These two cannot imagine
the magnanimity
of Abundance's story.

Their notion of Grace
is tightly throttled,
so it applies only
to a chosen few who
deserve and/or have earned it;
which, if you consider the meaning,
has nothing to do with Grace at all.

We must not be deceived,
however, into patting ourselves
on the back for recognizing
her face in a few other places,
for that is but another form
of competition and comparison.

She shows up every day,
not so much incognito,
as just plain unrecognized,
because we all have scars
on the retina of our narratives
blinding us to her presence.

When we pour our hopes and
dreams into the same story,
we will begin, together,
to help one another
more clearly see out of
and into our shadowed lives.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Gospel

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We live and breathe, O God,
in a world increasingly beholden,
not to the gospels of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John,
but rather to the gospels of division,
fear, hatred, and violence.

Remind us today, and each day
of our earthly sojourn,
that you did not create us
for such divisive, loveless,
hopeless, and destructive purposes.

Give us courage to speak
your truth to privilege and power –
the privilege and power
we've been granted,
the privilege and power
at the top of the constitutional
and governmental food chain,
and all privilege and power in-between.

Give us compassion to feel
the anxiety and hurt rising up
from those who regularly find themselves
at the short end of the stick
and the end of the line,
with targets on their backs,
because of the practice of their faith,
the color of their skin,
the nation of their birth, or
the configuration of their chromosomes.

Give us wisdom to recognize
the greed and indifference
that turn a blind eye
for profit's sake.

Give us integrity to live into
our created purpose,
so we may speak justice,
walk humility, and breathe hope.

As followers of the resurrected one,
we are called to be his voice,
his hands, his feet.

Show us how to live and love,
so we and our broken world
can find ourselves
pieced together by and
mortared with grace.

So let it be spoken,
so let it be lived,
so let it be done.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Grief’s Recipe

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When the slice comes,
it matters not whether
you heard it coming.
You bleed; sometimes
through your veins;
other times through your soul,
and maybe both.

  Either way, you’re searching
  for something to make
  the pain go away; something
  to turn back the clock
  to how it used to be –
  how you’d hoped it would remain –
  if not forever, at least
  for a while longer;
  a long while.

    Here’s what I want you to do:
    find a large bowl;
    the deepest one you have.
    Peer into the bowl.
    You're going to need
    a bigger bowl. 

  Place the cavernous bowl
  on the counter.
  Look at the floor around you.
  Go ahead and put
  the bowl on the floor. 

You cannot gather or assemble
the necessary ingredients.
You probably don't even
have them all.
Yet. 

  Get out your measuring cups.
  Look at them.
  Measuring is mostly irrelevant.
  Put the measuring cups away. 

    Remember the bowl?
    The one deeper and more expansive
    than you've ever seen?
    Some of the ingredients
    will never make it
    to the bowl.

  They'll end up being scattered
  all over the counter
  (Because, at first,
  you didn't want to put
  the bowl on the floor,
  did you?) 
  and all over the floor;

You can set the oven
at any temperature you want.
It will change from day to day,
even hour to hour,
to match the shifting flame
of your emotions.
Let the fire burn like it wants. 

  Sing to the bowl;
  sad songs, angry songs,
  songs of thanksgiving,
  whatever music wells-up in you. 

    Talk to the bowl;
    share memories, ask questions,
    demand answers, use whatever words
    you find bubbling up.
    Write the words, even and especially
    if it feels like you're scribbling
    in your own blood. 

  Invite another person
  to come sit on the floor with you;
  someone who'll refrain from sweeping;
  someone with ears agape and mouth shut;
  someone who's not afraid of weeping. 

Stir everything that makes it
into the bowl.
Let it rise over night,
night after night.

  Don't worry if,
  on some nights, it doesn't rise,
  or if the same thing is there,
  day after day, or if there are
  days when there's nothing there.
  Just stir, sing, talk, weep,
  scream, breathe, write.

    And listen.
    listen, even if it is
    only to silence. 

  You'll figure out when it's time
  to put it in the oven
  by listening to your heart.
  If you put it in too soon,
  it's okay to take it back out
  and resume your stirring. 

When it finally comes out
of the oven, taste it;
sit quietly and savor it.
You'll probably detect flavors
you don't remember seeing
in the bowl or scattered
on the counter or floor. 

  After you taste it,
  wrap the rest of it in your heart
  and carry it with you,
  wherever you go.
  In due time, you will feel others
  who need to taste it. 

    Accept the invitation
    to their kitchen.
    Sit on the floor with them.
    Share the recipe.
    Give them time and space
    to stir, sing, weep, write,
    and bake their own grieving mess. 

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted…” Psalm 34:18

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Courageous

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The human mind has a great deal
   of difficulty recognizing more
      than one kind of courage.

Our mental faculties
   are more comfortable
      with a single dictionary entry.

But the heart, and especially
   the interaction of living
      a particular life, have ways
   of opening other windows.

The brain is best-suited
   for comprehending courage
      from life’s intersection
   with outward bodily harm,
inflicted by things like disease or war;

and we rightly laud heroes
   who've stared down organ failure,
      chemo or radiation,
   an enemy's barrel,
or similar physical threats.

Courage also wells-up
   from the burden society loads
      upon the backs of those
   whose misfortune it is
to not fit the mold.

This is the pressure
   generating more subtle weapons:
      epithetic daggers of hate,
   dipped in the cultural poison
of rejection, hurled
   into mold-broken hearts.

Overcoming these assaults
   may not leave limbs severed,
      bones shattered,
   or organs inoperable,
but finding and living grace
   with clandestinely-scarred psyches
      can be equally as courageous.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Bated Breath

Carie Turner

Photo by Carie Rickenbrode Turner

 

(In our culture, these three – institution, religion, and faith – are formed into an awkward trinity. How do we see this three-legged monstrosity functioning in the world today?)

 

Every organization sees 
itself as institutional.

Every house of worship sees 
itself as religious.  

Every generation of faithers – 
those who take comfort 
beneath the banner of faith – 
sees itself as faithful. 

The age-old question 
of existential purpose, 
however, is not about 
perpetuity, ritual, or practice, 
but surrender, connection, transformation. 

The question we need 
to ask ourselves 
is not, "How can we 
assure the continued existence 
of our institution, 
the ongoing practice 
of our religion, and 
the future exercise 
of our faith?" 

It is, instead these three:

"Is our institution secure enough 
and honest enough
to build upon the foundation 
of its past?" 

“Is our religion aware enough 
to distinguish between 
convention and tradition, 
jettisoning the former 
when it stands in the way 
of giving breath and life 
to the latter?"

"Is our faith courageous enough 
to allow us to surrender 
our ties to empire, economy, and privilege, 
in order to be shaped into agents 
of hope for all creation?" 

The world waits 
for our answers 
with bated breath. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Duplicity

ktelliot

Photo by Kally Thompson Elliott

In August of 2013, through the confluence of a number of circumstances and experiences, I was compelled to pull to the side of the highway one morning and record a new perspective on a portion Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”. 

 

Give me your tomatoes,
your peppers, your hybrid  melons,
yearning to be consumed,
but not so much your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of bowing
to chemicals and corporations
has our shores teeming with toxicity,
and our hearts quivering with xenophobia.

The tempest-tossed who dream
of hope will not so much be met
 with lamp at golden door
as laser sight and incarceration.

All the while, our consumptive greed
turns a blind eye to the duplicity
of deportation and the rending
of family's fabric, to which
we claim undying allegiance.

Who will resurrect liberty?

© 2013 Todd Jenkins

 

Holy Warriors

lee l mckinney 06Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Humans of one religion
killing humans of another,
solely because of their faith,
is nothing less than absurd.

Does it happen?
Not nearly as much
as the media would
have us believe.

Not that killing is fabricated;
but that religion, as a driving force
for death, is a red herring. 

To be sure, there are people
all over the world, every day,
who kill one another;
but faith’s practice is rarely,
if ever, the culprit.

In fact, it is the confusion and blurring
of politics, ideology, and economics
with religion that becomes a flimsy excuse
for disregarding human life;

primarily, it is the attempt to sanctify
any other egotistical, violent, social construct
by overlaying the framework of religion.

Holy warriors, be they Christian,
Jewish, Muslim, or other
(and there are plenty to go around),
are RINO: Religious In Name Only.

They have stolen their parents’ car
and run off on a killing spree,
but a religious bumper sticker
does not justify their malice.

People who tell you differently
bang the drum of fear and ignorance,
hoping you’ll fall into lock-step,
as the troops parade before lesser gods.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Funny

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Mixing the entertainment business
with religious practice
is usually funny,
in more than one sense
of the word.

It's funny in the sense
that you can't predict
how the amalgam will be received –
whose message will excite the masses.

It's also funny because it's hard
to tell who's laughing with you,
who's laughing at you, and
who's laughing to keep from crying.

Many will be laughing.
That's about the only thing
that you can take to the bank,
which is really the bottom line
for this duo anyway.
Isn't it?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Unfolding

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Even the vaguest remembrance 
of grace, now only barely able 
to rouse the olfactories, 
laid in balance against 
all the fear and scarcity 
the armies, enemies, and economies 
of the world can muster, 
still tilts the scales 
so much in hope's favor 
that the negativities fly away 
like dry chaff in the breeze. 

Do you feel the gentle wind; 
the sacred inspiration? 

Remember how and when 
sacramental aroma 
once filled your nostrils 
with love so powerful 
you could taste it? 

This is grace. 
All you need to start with 
is breath; deep, slow breath. 
The rest will unfold 
in your heart 
and overflow in your life. 

Let it go. 
Let it flow. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins