Respecting the awesome power of words!

Author Archive

E-Strangement

IMG_3929Photo by Owen Jenkins

How much more has our access
to a virtual world exacerbated
our isolation and identity
of both other and self as stranger?

We are, are we not, e-strangers;
limited-character replies
passing in the night,
hell-bent and fear-rent
on steaming full speed ahead
so we don’t dare take on anything,
much less anyone?

Neighborhooding, friending,
working, voting, and churching
ourselves into social, economic,
and religious homogeneity
are not the answer;
they are the problem.

Open the door —
the actual physical one —
and break out the food —
the kind that satisfies
real human hunger.

We must gather ‘round a table
where all have a seat
and none are on the menu.

This is our only chance;
our only path away
from mutually assured destruction;
our only road to hope.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Be

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Esse quam videri –
 literally, “To be,
rather than to seem.”
is the North Carolina state motto.

It has also been translated,
“Be who you are.”

If ever there was
a “be and not just seem” one,
it was God-with-skin-on
from Nazareth,
whose parents named him “Jesus.”

I spent most
(okay, pretty much ALL)
of my first 30 years focused
on proving other people wrong.

That is, when someone said,
“You can’t/don’t know
how to do that.”
(because you’re left-handed,
too small/weak, young,
from a small town,
not educated enough, etc.),
I set out to prove them wrong.

Even though I became
quite adept at this,
one day, I realized
my life choices were based,
not on any inner sense
of purpose or drive,
but merely on competing
against the expectations of others.

I’ve spent the last 28+ years
learning to let go
of that need to prove
my enoughness to anyone,
including myself.

Wilderness, whether it’s mountains,
lakes, desert, or somewhere else,
is a place where the taunting voices
can most fully be shed,

giving me ears to hear
and heart to focus
on my own breath,

and helping me recognize
where and how my own worth
is validated, not in
the meeting or defeating
of others’ expectations,

but through the defining
and developing of self
in mutually healthful
service to the world.

Thanks be to God!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Blood Ash

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I didn’t want to say
the words this year.

“You are dust, and
to dust you shall return.”
kept asking
to be transposed
with something more honest,
like, “You were
in high school this morning,
future slowly unfolding;
but now your blood
is pooled on the ground,
your organs motionless,
your body lifeless,
your family screaming
a caustic cocktail
of rage and grief,
cameras intruding
like uninhibited perverts.”

How dare we regurgitate
a vacuous litany
propped up on
flimsy thoughts and prayers!

If we can’t be honest,
and say we’re not willing
to change anything
to slow the parade
of body bags,
then we need
to just keep our
damn mouths shut,
hunkered down
behind the walls
of our callous indifference.

Who will compose
a liturgy of lament?

Who will sit in this bend
of hell’s river,
sieve net in hand,
scooping the shrapnel-torn fragments
of hope as they drift
toward the abyss?

Answer me!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


A Mom’s Dream

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Mother Earth hopes,
  at the core
    of her molten magma,
      that we will soon wake up

    to the divine declaration,
  proclaimed at the universe’s dawning,
that we are all connected,

and our purpose is
  to pull together,
    instead of apart,

      so we all experience
    a full unfolding
  of dignity, worth, and respect. 

Otherwise, we’ll become
  little more than momentary fireworks
    in a recalculation
      of global proportions.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Yes and No

IMG_8937Photo by Ashley Goad

Let your word be 
‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; 
anything more than this 
comes from the evil one. 
(Matthew 5:37)

Say yes to the rhythm
of your marrow;
yes to walking deliberately;
yes to listening attentively;

yes to considering prayerfully;
yes to speaking gently;
yes to acting compassionately;
yes to holding tenderly;

and as these yeses unfold
into the world,
you will find the wisdom,
strength, and courage
to say no;

no to division;
no to fear;
no to othering;
no to assuming;
no to hoarding;
no to hurrying;
no to spontaneously reacting;
no to violence;
no to abusing;
no to anesthetizing.

Learn the way of yes,
and the way of no
will follow close behind.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


May Our Prayers Rise to Meet You

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Our prayers rise on your behalf,
lifting you into the presence
of the Great Physician:

Behold your precious child, O God;
one created in your image
and filled with your reflection.

Grant that the medical team
may continue to act with wisdom,
compassion, and understanding,
so that the journey along the
road to recovery may be
bearable and dotted
with respites and oases
giving breathing room.

Grant an awakening each day
with enough courage
to climb out of bed,
enough strength
to shuffle forward,
and enough hope
to lift eyes to the rising sun.

Grant that caretakers and family
may discern when to push
and when to hold,
when to cry
and when to laugh,
when to speak
and when to sit in silence.

These and all prayers we waft
in the name of him whose robe hem
sparkled with life itself,
Jesus the Christ. Amen.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins


Conversation Stopper

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We know the world is filled
 with naysayers — those whose actions,
auras, and words are pins pricking
our dream-inflated aspirations —
because we see and feel them
pressing-in on us every day;

proud to recite a litany
of their prognostications,
like a search engine
of Nostradamus snippets
strung together to match
reality, after the fact.

It’s a bit more challenging
to face the they-sayers, however,
as they mostly quote shadowy majorities
of influential figures who’re either
too polite or too afraid to come forward,
all the while, as mouthpieces
claiming neutrality, if not skepticism
on their own behalf.

Once you’ve been trained
as a they-sayer, it’s difficult
to see that your regurgitation,
allowing the clandestine mob
to remain anonymous, clearly signals
your complicity and agreement,
while denying us all the opportunity
to participate in conversation and discussion.

If you’re not willing
to claim ownership
of the bull, you shouldn’t
be letting it out of the pasture.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Commitment

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Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

 

    I’d offer you a fluffy basketful
   of thoughts and prayers,
  but I’m pretty sure
 you’ve had a bate
of shallow nothingness.

     I’d offer you
    unfettered second amendment
   and total gun confiscation,
  but I can tell
 we’ve all suffered enough
from artificial binary limitations.

     I’d offer you
    religious extremism
   and mental illness,
  but it seems like
 there’s already a glut
of selective blame and projection.

  In digging through
 the closet, in search
of something else to offer,

   there, at the back,
  I find an old table
 and lots of chairs,
all covered with cobwebs.

  Let’s take them out,
 dust them off,
and all pull up a seat.

   Let’s leave the bank accounts
  and the campaign contributions
 at home,
and have a genuine discussion

     about who needs what
    and how to make changes
   that’ll significantly slow down
  the filling up of cemeteries
 with the bullet-riddled bodies
of our loved ones.

    Let’s let everyone
   have a say,
  and then commit ourselves
 to making this a safer place
to live together.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Foundations

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More than a dozen years ago, as a friend’s dad faced chemotherapy, I envisioned and wrote about this scene:

 

I see him standing
on a stormy beach.
It is a place
he’s been before.

The waves are tall,
strong, and fast.
Sand is washing out
from under his feet.
Anxiety is, understandably,
rising with the tide.

I also see a strong,
enormous hand scooping him up
and holding him safely.

Where the receding sand
washed away,
large foundation stones
are moved into place.

The cornerstone has
a familiar look and scent;
the look of compassion
and the scent of love.

When the foundation is secure,
the protective hand sets him
back down onto the rocks.

May Christ be for you all,
and may he give you each
the hope, strength,
and courage to be
for one another,
pillars of hope and
foundations of comfort
during the raging storm
of chemotherapy.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Reflexive

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(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)

 

"My sons and daughters,
why have you forsaken them?
Why are you so far from responding
to the their cries and groanings?

They beseech you in daylight,
wailing at the wall you’ve constructed
to separate their lives
from your comfort and security.

By night, their pleas waft
on smoldering embers
of their deconstruction."

The victors have constructed
a lovely narrative of deliverance;
their cry, God’s response;
like a sacred vending machine,
fed with the coin of deserving.

But what of those who are judged
to be subpar, those whose DNA,
language, or faith heritage
come from beyond
the 23&me dream package?

What of those who showed up
for work or school or worship,
oblivious to the call to pack heat
for self-preservation;
those who trusted that
the least of these, the lambs,
would be protected
by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds?

They counted on us to carry them;
to be there, not just in the delivery room,
but at the grocery store checkout,
the public library, the classroom,
the youth group meeting, the job fair.

Is our absence because
we don’t really care, or because
we’re actually the carnivores
circling ‘round them?

Their tongues glue to the roof
of their mouths, like jerky
dried for consumption,
salted with the tears of their anguish.

Their skin taut, revealing
a cadaverous collection of bones.

The coyotes circle,
yipping and nipping,
casting lots for what little remains.

The dream we sold them
promised they’d have a shot;
guaranteed dignity, respect,
even opportunity;
but the fine print and disclaimer
excluded them for myriad reasons,
mostly because we feared
that including them
would cost us too much.

We are slow to catch on, O Lord;
blind and deaf and too scared
to realize that tossing them
to the curb is infinitely more costly
than we ever dreamed,
because it has cost us our very souls.

Is there still time, still hope,
still opportunity to pull
more chairs ‘round the table?

If we feed those who’ve been starved,
welcome those who’ve been exiled,
humble ourselves before you and pray,
will you make your light shine 
upon us all, once again?

We wrap ourselves
with the sackcloth of confession,
and dust ourselves
with the ash of contrition,
O holy one, in hopes
that our forsaking
will not become our forsakenness.

Deliver us, we pray,
that we may live
to proclaim your story
to generations yet to come.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins