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Archive for August, 2017

Grain and Oil

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I have grown simultaneously weary 
of pretending to know 
more than I know, 
and of withholding the truth 
by which I feel convicted. 

I will simply be me, 
and listen to you. 

This, with the widow 
of Zarephath's supply 
of the grain and oil of grace 
(1 Kings 17:16), 
will have to be enough.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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All in

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Pray with your mouth,
pray with your feet,
pray on the rooftop,
pray in the street.

Pray 'til the end,
pray from the start,
pray with your hands,
pray with your heart.

Pray with your money,
pray with your boat,
pray with your muscle,
pray with your vote.

Pray with your breathing,
pray with your mind,
pray with your stories,
pray with anything you find.

Pray out of the water,
pray out of the air,
wherever and whatever,
make sure it's all prayer.

Pray when you arrive,
pray while you're on the way;
with all your being and doing,
always and forever, pray.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

As If

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What's it like to have
a hurricane named after you;
your own moniker attached
to a high velocity wall
of hydro destruction?

Do you wish the random generator
of tropical storm names
had passed you by,
the same way
the lottery ticket gods
have done for generations
of desperate hopers?

Do you take it upon yourself
to stand up for those
in harm's way, as if
you've been singled out,
personally, to rail toward
the heavens with pleas
of mercy and deliverance,
willing their protection
with each breath you take?

Maybe, even when our name
hasn't been broadcast,
we can act and pray
as if it has, for no other reason
than the shared humanity
of our beating hearts.

Lord, send your angels…

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Creeksong

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Let me be a creek,
O holy one,
meandering through the deep woods 
of creation like a lovestruck couple
on a spring picnic,

singing creeksong
for all who wander near,
smoothing over the jagged rocks
as the years roll on,

teeming underneath with life
for all, shallow in some places,
rapids or deep pools in other,

smooth as glass in places,
reflecting the sky's crystal blue
and cotton-white clouds
so we'll all remember
to look to the heavens
from whence our help comes.

Let me be a creek,
O holy one; a creek
for your everflowing love.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Empty and Broken

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In a culture hell-bent on grasping,
patching, and covering up,
faith's call to empty ourselves
and embrace our brokenness
is arduous; but

as long as we are full –
of ourselves or our privilege
or anything else – and as long
as we pretend that we are flawless,
there is neither room nor path
for divine grace's infusion to us
and effusion from us.

Psalm 46:10's beginning statement
is often translated,
"Be still, and know
that I am God."
Its first Hebrew word, רָפָה (rapha)
can also be translated
"relax" or "let go".

Let go – empty yourself
of all you're trying to make
of yourself –  and know
that I am God.

We are never closer
to holy ground than when
we are standing
on common ground.

Being fully human is the result
of recognizing sparks
of both the self and the divine
in others, especially in those
we've been taught
to despise and devalue.

This may be the only
vantage point from which
we can truly ditch
all fear of scarcity,
all inflated pretense
of competitively-induced
self-worthiness and earning,

finally and fully relinquishing us all
to God's abundant mercy and grace.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


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