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Archive for December, 2016

Auld Lang Syne

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(Photo by Ben Padgett)

So many armchair quarterbacks
these days! From sports
to politics to religion and
all the spaces in between,

we're quite adept
at post-decision analysis
and critique, and technology
gives us a broad expressive platform.

What's lacking are
the conversations and questions
arising from genuine engagement
with people whose flesh and blood
palpitate near enough ours
to raise room temperature.

If you want to do something
earth-shattering on the cusp
of another calendar year,
try opening the trifecta
of your ears, heart, and mind,
to let a little more
of someone else's story
mingle with your own.

There's no telling what kinds
of resolutions and revolutionary
fireworks we could ignite.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins
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True Love

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Photo by Donna Repa

The secret to not being
afraid of being known
is letting God love you
for who you are.

The catalyst for this mystery
is called "forgiveness".

As long as we are afraid
of accepting this gift,
we are swinging
the business end
of a double-edge sword.

On one side,
we are gouged
by the guilt
of our own brokenness.

On the other,
we are sliced
by a fear of
and fixation on
the brokenness of others.

Love, which sees all
but chooses to focus on
and feed the flower
of hope, is the only antidote.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Innocents

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Far beyond a failure
to protect them,
intentional massacre
is heinousness
in the highest degree.

How frightened do you have
to be to declare all babies
two years-old and younger
acceptable collateral damage
for your political aspirations
and narcissistic ego?

It's easy to condemn
Herod for his atrocity.

What's more difficult
is admitting our own
complicity in failing
to leverage our privilege
and power to provide
basic dignity for today's children;

for lumping innocents
with those who've hijacked religion
for violent political purposes
so we can justify keeping them,
not just at manger's-length,
but exiled to places worse
than Pharaoh's Egypt.

Lord, have mercy,
not just on our souls,
but on our hearts and
the lives of children everywhere.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Home by Another Way

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So much of what's important
in life is learned
from paying attention,
which is precisely
what the Magi did.

That, and risk an adventure
to a faraway place
to behold a sight no one
had ever seen before.

Herod was a hoot,
quite sure they had come
to blow smoke up his royal robe;

but when they confessed
their desire to find a child
who'd been born to lead
the very people
he was sure he controlled,
he flipped his lid.

Surrounded by yes-men
attuned to his agenda
and his alone,
he never stood a chance;

but that didn't stop him
from scheming
a murderous plot.

First, he feigned interest
in also worshiping
this new king.

Never mind that Herod's
idea of worship included
a slit throat.

The sojourning stargazers
were nothing, if not persistent,
trekking all the way to Bethlehem,
where they were not disappointed,
paying homage and leaving
their now-famous
trio of gifts behind.

Of course there would be
one more dream
in this mystical tale;
this one urging them to go
"home by another way."

Now that we know the story,
how seekers from a faraway land
were first to bow the knee,
how a displaced family became refugees,
how dreams drove the whole story, and
how God chose this precarious tale
as a path to arrive in-the-flesh,
do we have the courage
to live with such imagination,
expectation, and abandon
in our own incarnational narratives?

The children are waiting,
and hoping that our answer is yes;
praying that our answer is life.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

DEC 21

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The shortest day leads
to the longest night.
This goes without saying,
except when you
need to say it.

When the phone rings,
and your doctor's number
appears on the caller-ID,
it's not magic, but it is
the news you've been waiting
for and the news you've
dreaded, all rolled into one.

All these years you've held
others' hands, both literally
and metaphorically, while they
walked their own valleys
of winter solstice.

You thought you knew
what they felt, but
now you wonder.

It's the gentlest winter of all,
not just because of climate change,
but because of the
flickering phraseology:
one of the slowest growing forms;
early detection; treatable;
high probability of cure.

The seasons help keep
it in perspective;
their rhythm, a sort of breathing:
spring, summer, fall, and now.

The image is coming into focus.
Beneath the snow,
rotting leaves, and chilled tundra,
the roots are resting;
getting ready for their own cotillion.

Light's absence is no deterrent
for those who are
determined to dance.

I think I hear music.
I know I see light.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

 


What Child?

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(Flat Creek Bottle Chapel, Flat Creek, TN)


What
child is this,
whose manger lies
beneath the dark, cold
Bethl’em skies? Child of wonder,
child of woe, child whose heart will
not let go of pain and suf’ring, war and strife,
of that which burdens
all of life.

Child
whose heart
breaks hard and true
for that which God desires
to do: bring light to darkness,
salve to pain; bring hope to those
who know but bane. Child whose simple
gifts unfold
grace’s promise
ancient told:

“Who
you are
and who you’ll
be, were all designed
at dawned eternity; live
into hope, love into being,
and Christmas’ gift you will be seeing!”
Join angels’, shepherds’, Magi’s voice, for
Emmanuel’s tent and pitching rejoice. May Christmas’ 
joy in your life abound; may you live its
gift the
whole year
‘round!

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Ache

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Love is not what hurts us.
People, who do not understand
how to love at all or
who love imperfectly
or who give up
on love altogether, hurt us.

But it is our willingness
to take a chance on love
that puts us in
such vulnerable circumstances.

Without such a risk,
we would never have
the opportunity to know
love's gift at all.

Life hurts, not love;
but it's not nearly as painful
as the empty ache
and anesthesia
of being too afraid to open
ourselves to love or be loved.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Here & Now

Sometimes, the rhythm of Clement Moore’s 1822 classic drops by for an afternoon, asking for some new verses; and sometimes, I can oblige.

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Time seems to fly;
it's the middle of December,
and it's all we can do
to try and remember
the reason we're here
in this time and place;
the reason we're breathing
and taking up space.

The world has its answers;
they sound so attractive.
It says to grab stuff
and always be active.
In spite of commercials
and mass advertising,
that dog won't hunt,
and it's not surprising

that trying to follow
this wearying path
just doesn't add up,
no matter how good your math.
Somewhere deep inside
from the day of our birth
we know whose we are
and what gives us worth.

It won't come from power
or things piled up high,
but grace overflowing
and hope in the eye.
We're here on the planet
to care for each other,
to offer ourselves
for a sister or brother.

This thing we call love
that fills every heart ❤
is what drives us all,
and the place where we start.
It's not what we have,
where we work, who we know;
it's respect that we give
and love that we show.

This holiday season
and all our lives long,
let's listen and share,
it's what makes us strong.
Stronger as friends,
stronger as neighbors,
strong as we share
the fruit of our labors.

Let hope be unwrapped
in your breathing and living;
let love overflow
in receiving and giving.
No matter how crazy,
no matter how wild,
never ever forget
that you're God's precious child.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

Traveling Mercies

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Traveling mercies
for you and all
of your peeps
this holiday season.

May the road rise
to meet you,
the wind be
at your back,
the sun guide
but not cook you,
the rain fall gently,
and all vehicular maniacs
be providentially hindered.

May the spirits of clarity,
joy, and wisdom
rest underneath you,
woven as a strong
but tender palm,
so you can each take
the psalmist's wings
of the morning and
reach the sea of sacred
understanding and connection.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins

 


Wait, Wait…

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To be told that waiting's in our future
is a great dread for many.
Of course, it depends on the thing
for which we're destined to wait.

If it's something dreadful, it's not so much
the wait that bothers us as the knowing.
If, on the other hand, it's something desirable,
the knowing can sometimes make it bearable.

Perhaps that feeling of not-yet
for something our heart desires deeply, 
is the very definition of hope.

That's what makes the timing of Advent
in the northern hemisphere so appropriate.
As fall gives way to winter,
both existentially and literally, the sun
keeps to itself more and more,
leaving us to wonder if the solstice
really is a turning point; casting shadows
of doubt on the notion that,
even though a season of cold is upon us,
the solar arc will enlarge,
leading to the gift of spring.

This is the season in which
the Advent promise unfolds;
the descending darkness into which
we light more and more candles each week.

This season, may we all smell, hear,
touch, see, and taste the deepest desires
for which we wait; may we become,
ourselves, candles of hope in all
of the stories opened to us.

© 2016 Todd Jenkins