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Archive for April, 2017

They

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They demanded and
even forced your labor,
offering no or little wages.

Silly me; I assured myself
I was doing comparatively well,
and somebody had
to be at the bottom,
mostly glad it wasn't me.

They took your dignity,
with images and cultural narratives
painting you as lesser,
or airbrushing you out
of the picture altogether.

Foolish me; I looked
in the mirror and saw
the right shade and shape,
assuming I still had
shreds of my own remaining.

They kicked you out
by banning and deportation,
as if culture, language, and religion
were legitimate wedges.

Trembling me; I fell
for scapegoating, ignoring
the malignancy
of systemic dis-ease.

They broke your spirit,
kicking you in the gut
with insufficient opportunities,
boot on your throat
with charges of laziness.

Ignorant me; I thought
I could prop mine up
with consumption and dogged pursuit,
not of my dreams, but
of what they told me to desire.

They're here
to steal your soul,
and it slices through my own,
clearly awakening me
to our eternal tether.

Now, I realize I've been
a part of "they" all along,
with my blind eye,
my silence, my privilege,
my vested interest votes.

Maybe we can't go back,
but I know that,
wherever we must go from here,
it will have to be together.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins
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Raised

rozsalinePainting by Rosalind Golden Saline

Surely light years beyond
wildest hopes and
deepest imaginations,
he is raised,
not just from the tomb,
but also from the debasing
of mocking, the torture
of scourging, and the excruciating
execution of crucifixion.

Was his appearance
nearly incognito because
of the impossibility of it all,
or because transcending death
alters persona far beyond
human fathomability?
Perhaps it was both.

His face, tilted skyward,
eyes closed,
no longer in agony,
now in serenity.

His skin at one
and the same time ashen,
yet fully thrushed with life;
its shading defies
ethnocentric limitations.

His lips, resting in a fashion
best-described as tranquility.
Completely antithetical
to terrestrial powers that sought
his demise via violence,
his presence exudes a gentleness
only love can elicit;

right hand lowered and open,
both revealing a lack
of animosity and weaponry,
and clearly displaying
still-fresh wounds,
beckoning us toward
our own deepest healing;

his left hand pointing heavenward,
living water flowing from it,
new life springing up
from a parched desert floor;
light bursting from above,
revealing creation’s eternally-held dream.

Last, but also perhaps first,
the robe;
swirling transfiguration's glow
with stone-rolling angel's ensemble;
but even those two foreshadowings
are inadequate descriptions
of its hope-infused cloud.

Sit with the elements;
letting life's river wash over you,
divine wind swirl your heart,
and corpus  of unconditional love
carry you into the grace
of each tomorrow's resurrection.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

IS

IMG_7490Photo by Anne Shurley

 

So many stories surrounded
with 'splainin’ on all sides,
to help us engage
senses, mind, and spirit;
historical and geographic settings,
names and titles, details galore.

Did you ever notice
how little detail is provided
for the gospel accounts
of resurrection?

How the women arrive in the garden –
always the women –
with their minds set on one thing,
when their hearts are taken aback
both by the presence of angels
and the absence of a body?

How no one – neither narrator
nor character nor angel – 
wastes any ink
or breath to tell us how?

Nothing but active verb
in present tense.
He IS risen.

That's what we need to know.
From there, we follow,
letting the IS of resurrection
bring us straightforward
into the world's active presence.

Metaphor and poetry may be
the heart of our God-speak,
as no vocabulary or alphabet
are capable of capturing
the divine self;
but faith's foundational eruption
from the tomb simply IS.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Easter Excerpts

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Matthew’s gospel has a whole lot of quaking going on. I want you to think about this quaking. Why is it here in the story? What does it mean?

27:50-53 …&…….  28:2

Sometimes it takes a little quaking to get us out of our ruts and our comfort zones, but our quaking differs considerably from God’s. Power’s shaking can’t hold a candle to love’s quaking.

I was going to race to the tomb,
but the women beat me to it.

I would have tried to roll away the stone,
but the angel-quake took care of that.

I might have raced
to tell the rest of the disciples,
assuming I wasn't among them,
behind locked doors,
quaking with fear.

The problem is
that most of these opportunities
are 2,000+ years gone.

Here’s the question I think both supersedes and surpasses our fascination with “Some bright morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” It’s this:

“In the big scheme of things, if death doesn’t have the last word, what does this change about life?” That is, “What difference does resurrection make in your and my here & now?”

28:7 The great hope & promise of resurrection is “he is going ahead of you”. Where would we be willing to go, what would we be willing do to, and who would we be willing to become if we really believed that he is still going ahead of us?

28:8 Resurrection sets us free from having to be God & from the burden of keeping ourselves alive. THAT’s the bizarre combination of “fear and great joy” that the women feel as they leave to keep moving toward the place to which the risen Christ is calling them.

This Easter, I'm praying
for the courage to set aside
all the shoulda, coulda,
and wouldas of my life.

Then, the only things left
 to do are to:

look for him among the living;

& reflect his light
 into the pain, suffering,
and grief of others;

& believe I'm forgiven
so I can practice forgiving others;

& step aside so grace can expand
into the places I'd rather it didn't;

& share my broken-hearted love
in broken ways,
with other broken people;

& take a pinch of bread
and a sip of wine,
believing that sacraments
make him real in ways
beyond my fathoming;

& practice the laying on of ears,
listening to both the entombing
and the untombing stories of others.

& finally, to breathe –
just breathe –
when I cannot
muster the wherewithal
to do anything else;

This is what I'll do,
trusting it will be enough.

Yes, the reality of resurrection
comes to pass, not just
"Some bright morning,
when this life is o'er..."
but also each day
in the here and now;

not by my own acts
or righteousness,
but by the love of God
in, through,
and around us all.

Easter’s quake keeps trembling,
raising the hair on your arm
and the back of your neck,
raising hope in your heart,
raising your capacity for compassion,
raising you and I to levels of love
we’ve never imagined.

By the grace of God,
Easter's not
our burden to prove.
It's our gift to live.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Saturday

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What did they do,
on that first Jewish Sabbath
following the Thursday
of arrest and humiliation;
following the Friday
of trial and mocking and
scourging and flesh-piercing?

Promises for the third day
were long-tossed out
with the other rubbish,
their possibility extinguished
by the agonizing gore
of public crucifixion.

Perhaps that Saturday was one
when sorrow's adrenaline gave out,
leaving them motionless on the floor,
dry tears invisibly streaming down
the gullies grief had gouged
in their cheeks.

Maybe they drifted off
into exhaustion disguised as sleep,
only to bolt upright at random intervals,
wishing for slumbering dreams
of hope and waking nightmares
of memory to exchange places.

You would think,
whatever else was done,
said, and felt,
they could easily be convinced
that celestial bodies
were frozen in the sky,
if not backtracking.

It appears as if rehearsing
the pedantic ritual 
for burial and body preparation
may have been their only respite,
its numbing repetition requiring
just enough mental and emotional capital
to hypnotically rock them
toward tomorrow.

Will our Saturday ever end?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


KOD

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The kiss of death (KOD)
only cost 30 pieces of silver
back in the day,
but it was intimate.

Today's KOD can be
so impersonal,
dropped from above,
droned from afar.

But let's be clear:
these measurements
we're kicking around
come from the top of the heap –
the green side of the grass.

From below, the price
is an altogether different unilateral;
it is ultimate –
not once-and-for-all,
but once-and-nevermore.

What do you suppose
resurrection will look like now?

John 11:50 You do not understand 
that it is better for you to have 
one man die for the people 
than to have the whole nation destroyed. 
(high priest Caiaphas)

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Change of Heart

war memorial

 

“Give us something to cheer about!”, the crowd cajoles. “We are in need of hosanna –  of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving!”

“Look what I have for you.” the voice trembles at first, then crescendos, “I have attacked an enemy with brute military might!”

“Is there gore, and blood? Can we do a victory dance?”

“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be gathered!”

“Let the banshee cry! Let reveling be unleashed!”

“But earlier in the week you had a different master; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”

“His ways are arduous, expecting our abundance to feed the hungry, calling us to love our enemies, asking difficult questions of our choices and allegiance. Who knew being neighbors would be so complicated?!”

“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All empire asks is your unquestioned allegiance, your willingness to join and support the force, and a few other minor details in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”

“We are in!”

“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”

“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”

“And by that, you mean?…”

The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch! Ready, aim, fire!”

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Faith

Deb KrugerPhoto by Deb Kruger

 

In some ways, it's an off-the-grid path
  showing up where the trust highway
fades into the night.

You move forward,
  feeling your way through the woods,
  because standing still or going back
are unacceptable options;

hoping against hope
  there's somewhere worth going,
    someone worth finding,
  or someone who's already found you;
hoping you'll eventually get there.

All the while, the wind whispers
  through the trees,
    as you strain your ears,
  begging to hear your name,
or a plausible facsimile thereof.

Sometimes you're desperate enough
  to change your name
    to whatever sounds
  the waving branches make,
with their dysrhythmic clack-clacking.

Other times, you pick up your name,
  clear as a bell,
    just like the last time a loved one
      stood on a moonlit porch
    and gathered you in
  by casting your multisyllabic pattern
into the wind.

Somewhere beyond this forest
  lies a place and time
    you've only visited in your heart;
      a place that must be home,
    because nothing else
  could hold you under a spell
of such mystery and magnetism.

This – all of this –
  and then some more
  that you'll figure out along the way,
is what we call faith.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Instead

lee l mckinney 4Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Liberation, like grace,
when advocated by humans,
always has limits.

At some point in the story
of our history and community
we all draw a line;

a mark in the sand to which
we are wholly oblivious,
until someone on the other side
points it out.

Christianity attempts to follow
the narrative of the God-Human;
the only one whose love
was unlimited; the one
who drew expansive circles,
instead.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Simmering

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I watched a male Eastern Bluebird
sit on our deck rail,
his eyes askance and body
shifting side to side
in search of predatory danger.

When he took to his wings,
it was as if an iridescent stream
of shimmering blue flame
traced a launching rocket.

As he faded from my sight,
I wondered if my own
leaving of a place – any place –
would ever generate
such a brilliant trail to follow.

Deciding that the answer
was, "No." I resolved, again,
to desire less the sparkling beauty
of bluebird in my eye,
and more the steadfast reflection
of poetic hope simmering
in my marrow.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins