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

Gospelly Turns

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In a cosmos of quid pro quo,
we can never do enough
to earn even our own love,
much less God’s.

Grace, it turns out,
is that free lunch they
told us didn’t exist.

These two, love and grace
shatter all
our transactional models,
rendering them moot.

You and I may not feel
comfortable letting others
have something for nothing,
but God is down with it.

Maybe it’s time
to get down with God.

© 2019 Todd Jenkins
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Soul Gardening

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  I remember when these two
questions showed up.

  I was having a conversation
  with someone who was
  constantly hyper-focused
    on everything in the world
    that was perceived
    to be broken and deficient,
    denigrating others, first,
  and then spilling over
  onto self.
Here’s what I asked:

    How do you treat yourself
    when you believe
    you've screwed up?
    How do the people
  who love you treat you
  when they believe
you've screwed up?

  The reason I was asking:
  My life’s pursuit for meaning
  has convinced me
  that Grace's roots
    are nurtured at home;
    and if no one
    plants the seed,
    it’s like a bag
  of forgotten dreams
  stored in a musty warehouse,
  ticking time away
  with a chronic obstructive
pathological disorder.

  With little chance
  of finding tilled soil,
  sunlight, and water,
    there’s not much else
    to do but run
    ragged fingers along
    the outside of the sack,
    tracing the faded image
  of a flower whose desire
  is daily smothered
  by affirmationless accusations;
  nowhere left to reach
  but down into the abyss
of self-flagelation.

  Every morning, I try
    to fill the pockets
    of my heart
  with a tiny plow,
  a bright sky,
  along with some
thick, dark rain clouds. 

  Throughout the day,
  when I’m paying attention
    to the people in my orbit —
    which is never often enough —
  Grace whispers in my ear,
  encouraging me
  to tend our garden
  with what I have
and who I am.

  Looking back, I know
  my furrowing questions,
  the flicker of my candle,
  and the tiny droplets
  of my shared tears
    aren’t much, but,
    like each drop
    of the ocean,
    I add them
  to the cosmos anyway,
  confident that Hope’s shoot
  will one day break ground,
  Mercy’s blossom
  somehow will unfold,
  and Love’s fruit
will eventually ripen.

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

Primal Mystery

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Photo by DeEtta H. Jenkins

 

Faith is a journey
  across time, space,
  and life;

a continual lesson
  that challenges us
  to move from holding on
    to letting go,
    from the desperate air-clutch
  of free-falling
  to the peace and comfort
    of being held.

It questions our assumptions
  and the validity of our fears.

In a culture of consumption,
  acquisition, and storage,
  it dares us to experience
    the transformative grace
    of productivity,
  distribution, and restoration.

It asks us to risk acting
  with God’s generosity
  in a world that refuses
    to believe that anyone cares
    about or knows us
  any more or better
  than we do ourselves.

It is in these selfless moments
  and acts that we catch
  joy-filled glimpses
    of our true nature.

Faith is the gift for which
  we are created,
  the purpose of our existence,
    the primal mystery for which
    our deepest memory longs.

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

Race

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It's really just a contest
to see who can arrive faster
or with more support;

  so when we shoehorn it
  into biology, we're often
  escalating the competition,
  by declaring superiority
  of one group over another.

  Suffixing imaginary genetic match
  with "ism" isn't always about
  old fashioned hate spewed
  in the light of day.

Sometimes it's much more subtle:
an unspoken framework
for socioeconomic and cultural mores
tilting everything in favor
of predetermined medalists.

  We don't have to ask for it
  or even recognize it
  to be complicit.

  All we have to do
  is deny or ignore it.

It will march on,
grinding unchosen ones
into dust, while anesthetizing
the rest to seductive
and powerful privilege.

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

You’re Invited

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We are told by culture
 that we must pretend
  we are exquisite
   works of art,
    framed and finished,
    ready for a museum opening,
   yet open to the slings and arrows
  of an all-comers 
 field of critics,
   none of whom are capable
 of creating the perfection
  we’re encouraged to project.

 Answer me this:
  Have you ever seen
 a masterpiece being created?
   Have you ever observed
 the layers being applied,
    the do-overs and cover-ups?

   Have you ever wandered around
 in the lonely hallway between
  an artist’s mind and heart,
     taking note
 of pain and suffering
   splattered on those walls?

     You can keep
  your illusions of flawlessness,
 your arcade of utopia.

I am going to open a gallery
  of mixed media collections,
    where images
 of how we thought it would be,
  and who we thought we were,
     have been cracked
 into irregular fragments,
  and then pieced back together
    into new portraits of hope;

pictures never before imagined,
  yet possessing a strength
    and beauty beyond compare.

 Yes, I’m going to make a space
   in this world for celebrating
the cracked puzzles
    of who we have become.

Instead of shellacking
    the slivers in place,
  once they fit together nicely,
   or spackling over the cracks,
 sanding them smooth,
we’re going to celebrate
  the tenacity and courage
    of those who continue
 to show up
even and especially
    with pieces missing
  and others out of place.

   We’re going to toast
 those who allow themselves
to be blessed, broken,
    poured out, and shared.

    I declare a mezzanine
 of works in progress,
   a universe of people
on the way,
  a cosmos of grace
     always becoming.

   To see, to be,
 to become,
    you’re invited.
Let’s call it “church.”

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

Beckoned

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Winter paints,
 with its frigid palette,
  flourishing a window
   of the landscape
  with the confidence
 of a seasoned master.

Tendrils of ice trace
 their light-reflecting path
  along the trunks and branches
 like an artist’s pencil sketch,

daring us to imagine
 a rendering of reality filled
  with the indescribable beauty
   of hope, revealing light
    that beckons us
   toward the fire
  of pure joy.

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

Let the Spirits Fly

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        Stop the words now.
         Open the window 
   in the center of your chest,
 and let the spirits fly in and out.
       (Jalaluddin Rumi)

I think this is the room
  where, regularly,
  I go to rest,
  in sessions
  (Or is it seasons?)
  of silent prayer.

  When I return
    from my flight,
    the muse regales me
    with the story
    of the music she heard
    while I was gone,

and our words lean hard
  toward whatever instrument
  is nearby, hoping
  to reach a staff,
  treble or base,
  it doesn’t matter.

  For a while, which seems
    both like forever
    and yet an instant,
    we draw imaginary circles,
    some open,
    some bubbled-in,
    some stemmed,
    some flagged,
    with rests of varying lengths
    scattered throughout,
    attempting to hang them
    on whatever walls we can find.

Eventually,
  when our fingers are hoarse,
  we resolve ourselves
  to simply relish
  the music’s echo.

      Music is what words 
       want to become 
     but can never be. 
     (John O'Donahue)

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

Verbal Art

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   If I didn’t know better,
   I’d say it could have been
   an assault;

  letters, clumped
  in precisely measured groups,
  divided by marks
  of carefully selected punctuation,
  with vast patches
  of blank space;

 all crafted
 to carve the possibility
 of heretofore unimagined reality
 upon the landscape
 of my world.

I felt the words grab me,
first by the leg,
then by the arm,
finally by the throat,

   dragging me
   to the edge
   of a deep precipice
   that I intuitively recognized
   as the gap between
   my life and death;

  their echoes swirling
  as a brewing storm,
  whipping viscous winds about,
  my racing pulse fueled
  by the chemical reaction
  between anticipation and anxiety.

 In the ensuing dizziness,
 I totter uncontrollably
 at the edge,
 falling toward life
 on my knees.

“My God!”
I hoarsely croak.

   And then it hits me:
   In the beginning 
   was the word,
   and the word
   was with God, 
   and the word
   was God.
   John 1:1

  © 2019 Todd Jenkins

Nevertheless

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     It sounds so corrective;
    a formal cousin
   to the loop-back
  of  Anyway;
 a more subtle friend
of In Spite of That. 

     Nevertheless, I find myself
    wandering along roads
   I didn’t create
  and ones I know not,
 stumbling down paths
with which I am not familiar.

    Nevertheless, I took
   what I wanted,
  with little concern
 for how my grasping
impacted others.

     Nevertheless I dreamed
    of glory beyond fathoms,
  with regard neither
 for glory’s price
nor its responsibility.

     Nevertheless, I walked away —
    sometimes ran away
  and swam away —
 from what I began to feel
was my life’s purpose.

      I was afraid of whom
     it would make me;
    afraid of what
  it would cost me;
 afraid of where
it would take me.

  And then you came to me
 with your nevertheless,
again and again and again:

 “I love you nevertheless;
never the less.”

And the psalmist sings:
  “Nevertheless I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23)

© 2019 Todd Jenkins

Dream

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Hope arrives, unbidden,
surprising us
with her unconventional dreams,
beyond our imagining.

  “Dare with me.”
  she whispers.
  “Let go of the insignificance
  within your grasp,
  so that you
  can make space
  for the expansiveness
  of grace to unfold.”

    And here I sit,
    muscles clenched,
    holding tightly
    to what was tossed
    into my lap
    by the happenstance
    of my birth.

Like a provincial porcine monarch,
wallowing in the slop
of my sad little sty,
I puff up
for the neighborhood gentry.

  Meanwhile, the opus
  of love swells
  to its glorious crescendo,
  daring me to acquiesce
  to the holy symphony;

    and the mystery
    of instruments
    beyond my fathoms
    pulls me toward tomorrow.

Have you ever felt
this dream
in your deep places?

© 2019 Todd Jenkins