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.
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  • Anne Shurley
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Latest

The Red Pants Toss

Many years ago, sometime around 1984, I was in a large department store (think “small-scale Walmart before Walmart metastasized”) by myself.

I can’t remember why I entered the store to begin with, but before I left, I was looking at the men’s clothing; specifically at a pair of red pants. Why would I want red pants? Because I worked as a Snap-On Tools dealer, and our company logo and uniform shirts were black, gray, and red.

I wanted to try the pants on, to see if they fit, so I went back to the dressing rooms, only to find that all of them were locked. There was no store employee in the vicinity, so I kept walking until I found an employee, in the shoe department. I explained my predicament and asked if she could come unlock the dressing room so I could try on the pants.

She told me that she didn’t have a key to the dressing rooms, and she couldn’t leave the shoe area, but she would page someone to come over to the clothing section and help me. I thanked her and went back to the dressing rooms to wait. I heard her request assistance for me over the store’s PA system, “Customer needs assistance in men’s clothing.”, so I assumed someone would come unlock the dressing rooms. Five or more minutes passed (which seemed like 30+ minutes to me), and no one came.

I thought I would try to get someone’s attention, so I began to toss the red pants up in the air. Don’t ask me why I thought that was a good idea. At first, my tossings were just a few feet overhead. As time went on, and I was still unnoticed, I began to toss them higher.

After about 20-30 tosses, I was approached by a young guy who looked like another shopper (I was 25, and he looked to be about 20.). He had on faded blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a white undershirt. Unbeknownst to me, he was a plain-clothes security officer. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a badge, and said, “I’m store security, and I’m going to have to ask you to leave the store.”

I said, “Why do I need to leave the store? I’m just trying to get someone’s attention so I can get a dressing room unlocked and try on these red pants.”

He said, “Your behavior is inappropriate and dangerous. I’m going to have to call the police if you don’t leave.” Envisioning the newspaper headline, “Snap-On Tools Dealer Arrested for Tossing Pants in Local AIM Store”, I left, and never returned to that store again. My whole family knows this story, and they enjoy bringing it up every once in a while.

A couple of Fridays ago, when I was chauffeuring my middle child to a government office in Madison, TN, attempting to help her unravel a government-induced mistake, things went from bad to worse. The agency lost a check she mailed them (for overpayments they made to her because they didn’t process her employment paperwork fast enough, continuing to pay her disability benefits after she found a job). They continued to ask for payment and, when she explained (multiple times over the phone with different case-workers, each of whom had no record of previous conversations) that she’d already mailed the payment, they told her they didn’t know what happened to her check, so she would need to stop payment on it and come to their office, in person, to make payment.

Hey, if you can’t joke about your life, you might be taking it too seriously!

We were carrying on a group text conversation with her mom (my wife) who was at work in Fayetteville, keeping her apprised of our progress, feigning excitement as the numbers called were getting closer to hers. Hey, if you can’t joke about your life, you might be taking it too seriously! Right before her number was called, the office manager came out to the waiting room and abruptly announced that the office was closing immediately and we all needed to evacuate the building as quickly as possible, because there was “a strong chemical smell in one of the offices.” He then said, “You’ll all need to come back on Monday to take care of your business.”

My daughter took a day off, without pay, in order to make sure this agency posted her check and corrected its mistake, so I was pretty incensed. I went up to the office manager and said, “She took a day off work, without pay, to come down here and straighten out a problem that your office created. Do you mean to tell me that there’s nothing you’re going to do but tell her to take another day off and come back Monday?”

His reply was, “You’ll just have to come back on Monday.”

When we were filing out of the office with the 30 or so other people who were in the same predicament, one of the security guards said, quietly, “There’s another office 20 minutes up the road. You can go there and get your business taken care of.” She even gave us directions.

All of this was reported and responded to in the group text conversation. Somewhere in the middle of this whole ordeal, though it is not recorded in the text thread (must have been in a phone or face-to-face conversation), someone made reference to the red pants, asking if I was tempted to toss any pants in the air at the first office. Hey, if you can’t joke about your life, you might be taking it too seriously!

By the time we arrived at the second office, we had all laughed at this frustration and made jokes about who had sabotaged the office and the source of the “strong chemical smell”, theorizing everything from another irate client with pyromaniac/terrorist tendencies to a disengaged employee wanting an early start to the weekend.

The employee who eventually handled her case at the second office was remarkable. He was professional, apologetic, meticulous, and we left his office with a renewed sense of appreciation for and faith in humanity. I’m telling you this story to let you know, in case you’ve been misled, that there are good and helpful people out there in every profession. Sometimes you might have to evacuate a few burning buildings before you find them. Oh yeah, one more thing: Never toss the red pants. They probably wouldn’t have fit anyway, and they likely wouldn’t look good on you. Just walk away, and keep laughing.
red pants
© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Grate Again

A Goad
Photo by Ashley Goad

This is what came to me, yesterday, rapid-fire. Thanks to voice-to-text technology, I was able to capture the muse without risk of life and limb. Or so it seems. 

Lives of quiet desperation,
oblivious to separation,
pitting third tier hopes
against the world;
measuring the fears
multiplying through the years.

Never sure how much
the net below has shredded.
Riding anger’s empty wave
onto a rocky shore,
crashing, boardless, as the tide
goes out, to rise no more.

Beat down by ego’s fiery bluster;
candle moth above the flame,
risking all for one more chance.
Never saw this was a game;
helplessly folded into
a deck completely stacked.

Squeezed by edges of the corner
into which we’re  backed.
Vacuumed into fading light,
desperately afraid of night,

Racing toward the cliff
of insurrection
How’d we fall so far
from resurrection?

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Circling

lee l mckinney 4
Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

The birds are circling overhead,
searching for a spot to land;
but are they buzzards
who’ve caught the scent
of rotting flesh,
yearning to prey
on another’s disaster,

or doves in search
of dry ground,
eager to carry the good news
of olive branch back
to those who’re hanging on
through the hell
of flood’s high water?

I think I see both,
and today’s sunrise
is asking me which one
of them I’ll become.

The circle of fear contracts.
The circle of love expands.

Which one will I choose?

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

5th Dimension

GJK 03Photo by Gay Jenkins Kallschmidt

That the self of God exists both
in and beyond the three dimensions
of physical space is a truth
to which many hold,

being convinced as much or more
by nature’s complex glory
as by pedantic doctrine.

It is also understood
by more than a few that,
as author of eternity,
God transcends linear time,

being always in the present
of each moment, and never
bound by past
nor perplexed by future,
but fully engaged and invested
in each successive now.

But what would you think
if I told you I’ve felt glimpses
and heard tastes
of another dimension;

one peculiar to faith,
into which these
other four dimensions, as well
as all creation, are inextricably woven?

It has many names, but
I call it both grace and love.

I am convinced it is both
the grand truth and
the ultimate power toward which
we are all being drawn.

It is our completion.

Sometimes it smells
like bread baking,
or fish cooking over charcoal,
or honeysuckle vine,
or a baby’s sweat,
or even the scent of ozone,
converting lightning into life,
after a thunderstorm.

Have you smelled it?

When you do,
I hope you’ll stop, breathe,
and let it sing you
for more than a few measures.

There’s also a dance that
accompanies the music.
Go ahead, cut a rug.

You never know who it is
that needs to know
they’re not the only one
drifting into this fifth dimension.

Carry on.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Hope Revised

Anne Shurley
                                Photo by Anne Shurley


All along the journey
we cast our nets,
convinced that what's pulled in
will be sufficient
as investment for our dreams.

But ego and anxiety have ways
of clouding the water,
so we aim for comfort and security,
rather than open ourselves
to the vastness of sacred vision.

Give us patience, O God,
to find still water; courage
to reach past control; faith
to trust beyond comprehension.

Give us hope revised,
always revising,
until we rest in you.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

PC

What happens when refusal 
to excuse intolerance 
is attacked and labeled 
as intolerant; when, 
"I won't sit by and watch you 
continue to disrespect, 
misuse, and/or exploit others 
simply because you still 
find it appropriate." 
is considered intolerance? 
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Challenging unexamined privilege 
is not a form of intolerance. 
It is a dare to lift
reality beyond experience; 
a summons to seek
knowledge beyond opinion; 
a call to live and act 
out of empathy and understanding. 

Attempts to brand it otherwise 
are thinly veiled smoke screens 
of self-generated victimization. 

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Riff on the Bard’s Nunnery Scene

(based on Luke 12:22-34)

Luke 12:34
For where your treasure is, 
there your heart will be also.
B PadgettBuck's Pocket (1)

Photo by Ben Padgett

To fear or not to fear,
that is the question;
whether 'tis nobler in the spirit

to suffer the slings and arrows
of hatred and violence,
or to seek and speak faith
against a sea of utter despair
and by opposing desperation,
give wings to hope.

To serve, to waste
idly by no more;
and by service to say we stand –
yea sit in silent solidarity –  
with the heartbroken,
so separation and alienation
are no longer parasites attached
to the vultures of injustice.

To serve, perchance to dream –
ay, there's the rub –
a kingdom whose dream come true
it is God's desire to deliver.

For in service to others,
what hopes may remain aloft
long after our stage exit's complete
are universal winds of divine design.

To finally recognize the treasure
of one another as our heart's
only resting place;
this is the sum and purpose
of our faithful gathering.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

 

Perfection

 

When it comes down
to it, perfection
is a heavy mortar,
cementing some of our
broken pieces into the most
inconspicuous places and
sweeping the rest
under the rug.

Thus frozen and divided,
we are stranded, and
of little use to self or others. 

Wholeness, on the other hand,
is a puzzle, free
to be rearranged
by divine shifts to fit
and fill empty places
in the universe.

Ours is a brokenness
whose purpose includes
the ingress and egress
of grace's tides.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Arrival

 

Order will neither be created
nor maintained by use
of threat, force, or violence.
hope
It arrives, instead,
as the culmination
of conversation,
understanding,
and relationship.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Fini

JJ6

I’ve decided who you are,
for what you stand,
even what you’re worth.

Oh, we’ve never met;
I don’t know much about you;
never asked you anything.

But I’ve categorized, classified,
stuffed you in a pigeon-hole,
with what I fear and don’t know.

Potential for our relationship
never had a chance;
end came before beginning.

I’ll never know what I missed,
but I am safe, secure;
little else matters.

I watch you through
protective window of my world;
sometimes wondering, mostly fearing.

One day all of this will be gone;
then I’ll go to be with Jesus.

I’ll tell him about you,
reminding him I prayed for you,
pitied you, kept my distance.
Surely he’ll understand.

Not!

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

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