Respecting the awesome power of words!

awareness

Whataboutism

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Lord, deliver us
from whataboutism
in all its forms,
both used for or against
the ideas/people safely ensconced
within the parameters
of our confirmation bias.

  Dare us, as humans
  on this journey together,
  to neither deflect
  from the present
  nor shirk responsibility
  for the past.

    Instead, we pray,
    give us courage
    and fortitude
    to do the right thing
    now, and do it next,
    again and again,

    without the need
    to point toward
    another person, place,
    and time
    where fear, hatred,
    and ignorance prevailed,
    as if that were, somehow,
    an excuse for
    serial repetition
    of the same, similar,
    or a counterbalancing stupidity.

  Help us, O holy one,
  to find our footing
  on the Grace Highway,
  somewhere in the broad lane
  between the conviction
  of history’s blindness
  and the overflowing fountain
  of divine mercy.

Give us, O God,
compassionate strength
and peace in our marrow
to plumb the depths
of our connected condition,
that we may climb,
together,
toward a road higher
and more sacred
than the one on which
we currently find ourselves.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Revolution

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So often I have longed
 and looked for her
  to arrive on stately steed,
   impenetrable coat of mail,
    shield, sword, and spear
  to multiply the fear, 
 as I sit idly by, 
enjoying the show.

      When she appears,
     demurely standing beside
    all whose necks bear
   the boot print of power,
  all who’re on the menu,
 steadily waving
the flag of resistance,
 I look right past her,
  blinded by the irony
    of a privilege that’s unable
      to recognize anything but
       the love of power,
         impervious to
          the power of love.

Still, she refuses
 to throw me under the bus,
 declines to send me
to a seat in the rear.

   “Sing with us.” she invites.
  “The revolution will uproot
 fear and hatred,
not with looking glass’
 shield and retribution,
  but by the resonance
  of neighbor and
   the restoration of love.”

That's when the fire 
 in my bones is stoked, 
  and I can more clearly see 
    where my own words and actions 
  can add to the dismantling 
 of the leaning tower, and 
lay a foundation for hope.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Hunger

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We thought that accumulating
a treasury of resources,
regardless of the cost to others
and to the planet,
would somehow soothe
the hunger in our souls.

What we failed to recognize
was the depth of need
in our marrow,
and the reality
that this ravenous maw’s desire
could only be satisfied
by listening to and integrating
the narratives of other people
into our own stories.

Thus, the hospitality
of open ears and hearts
becomes the divine gift
through which
lives are intertwined,
famine is abated,
and the cosmos’ heartbeat
is extended.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Grappling

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Laughter and crying
  are at opposite ends
    of a spectrum
  both of whose extremities
are incredulity.

The former,
  buoyed by possibility;
  the latter,
weighed down with dread.

The line between them
  is neither straight,
  nor two-dimensional,
but curved, spherical.

When they back up
  to one another,
    on the shadowed side
     of our universe,
    we sometimes say
  we’re laughing
to keep from crying.

That’s when
  fear and hope
  are grappling
for our soul;

when we can’t yet discern
  whether the burgeoning light
    rising over the eastern mountains
      is another raging dumpster fire,
   the torching
  of a chaparral called home,
 or the hopeward resurrection
of the morning sun.

Keep wrestling,
  mi amigos; the light
is on your side.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Glory’s Spread

J48NQ0yGRy2wfnhhvJnmcQPhoto by Jennie Roberts Jenkins

Our Invitation to the Table 
at FPC Greeneville, TN, 
on November 11, 2018, 
tying together Mark 12:38-44 
(exposing the scribes’ power mongering 
and the widow’s mite) 
and  the Table.

 

Yes, I, too, thought
  this was about
  the propagation of a —
  if not THE — divine attribute;
specifically about how I
  was called to participate
  in sacred — if not holy — ways,
  in slathering divine beauty
  all over the global landscape;

until she conjured up
  Eucharistic images,
  and even snapshots
  of everyday tables
(which are, by the way,
  anything but ordinary)
  to which I have been invited:

ones where bread and wine
  have been prepared,
  ones where love and forgiveness
  have been dared,
  ones where grace and mercy
  have been shared.

That’s where I began to see
  how little of this
  is about my worshipful mind
  and the sacred music I sing,
  and how much of it’s about
  when and where I’m kind,
  and the hope I reflect and bring;

and how often I miss
  its rich nutritional feast
  by overlooking
  the outcast and the least;
and when I gorge and stuff,
  how the processed junk
  is never enough.

And there before us
  rests glory’s spread,
  at table where Christ
  is sacred head;
meal not so rich
  with scarcity’s gap,
  as fullness poured
  into each lap;
always room
  for one more there;
help your neighbor
  pull up a chair.

We’re all invited
  as we’re able;
one and all,
  come to the table!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Let Go

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“Let go.” she said.
“It will help you
differentiate between what
you’re meant to hold,
and what’s weighing you down.”

“Let go?” I exclaimed!
“Are you kidding?
I’ve been holding on
my whole life; sometimes
by nothing more
than a thread,
but always squeezing
with every ounce of my being!”

“And what do you have
to show for that?”
came her jabbing reply.
“Tired hands?
A smaller circle?”

In the deepest places,
I knew she was right,
but I had been grasping
for so long
that I couldn’t imagine
not doing so.

Then, she pointed
to the trees.

“At the time when their foliage
is at its most glorious,
they let go,
watching their leaves
float to the ground,
withering and turning
into a rich humus
for future growth.”

As the muscles in my hands
groaned in relief,
I felt the beautifully colored leaves
of my life drifting toward
a holy compost pile.

Let go.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

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Division

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I can’t remember
the exact year in school
when my teacher introduced
the concept of division.

I do remember, however,
that it was always about things —
apples, cookies, toys —
and never about people;

a mathematical tool
for equally parceling out
specific things:

Your mom cooked 72 Halloween cookies
for you to share at school.
You have 24 students
in your class.
How many cookies
should each student receive?

There was never a word problem
that required dividing people;
never a question like:

Of the 24 students in your class,
18 are from Christian families
whose parents were born
in the USA,
and whose racial identity is white.
The remainder are
of other religions,
and/or were born of foreign citizens,
and/or are of another ethnicity.
Of what fraction/percentage
of your classmates
should you be afraid?

Nope.
I never learned to divide people.

In fact, my faith guides me
to add them:

You shall not wrong or oppress
a resident alien,
for you were aliens
in the land of Egypt.
You shall not abuse
any widow or orphan.
(Exodus 22:21-22)

“Which of these three,
do you think,
was a neighbor to the man
who fell into the hands
of the robbers?”
He said, “The one
who showed him mercy.”
Jesus said to him,
“Go and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:36-37)

... you shall love
the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this,
‘You shall love your neighbor
as yourself.’
There is no other commandment
greater than these.”
(Mark 12:30-31)

This is God’s people-math.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Up and Out

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Photo by Ben Padgett

 

      From the beginning of time,
    God’s self-revealing
  has had as its purpose,
  the collection of all creation
into a gathered community.

      Abram was told
    he and Sarai would be
  blessed in order to become
a blessing to the nations.

      The prophets reminded Israel
    that her chosenness was intended
  to be a beacon by which
all nations would come to know YHWH.

      Unfortunately, also
    from the beginning of time,
  we humans have taken
  God’s self-revelation
  to us to be a call
for elevation and exclusion.

      Like proverbial blind folks
    approaching an elephant
  from different directions,
  we hang-on to a tail,
  or leg, or trunk, or tusk,
  fully convinced that our perception
  and experience are both
exhaustive and exclusive.

      It’s past time to grow up
    and out of our spiritual infancy
  and adolescence,
  deepening our own faith’s roots
and reaching out its branches,

      so neither it nor we are threatened
    by the variety of spiritual paths
  into and through which
others have been called.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Such as These

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(Matthew 19:14) but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”

The other day,
  I watched a video
    of our newborn grandson.
      His eyes seemed
    to be blinking me
  a message in his own
kind of code:

“When newborns are given
  a healthful blend
    of divinely inspired
      safety and freedom,
    we offer the world
  another chance to understand
our life’s purpose.

Our spontaneous naps
  are purest centering prayer,
    tethering us securely
  to the original source
of our spiritual DNA;

our awakenings,
  unadulterated anticipation
of the sacred and ecstatic.

We perceive the world
  by smell, sight, taste,
    touch, and sound;
      content, for now, to utter
    nothing more
  than dove-like coos
in guileless response.

Through the rhythmic cycle
  of our days and nights,
    we mirror unfiltered engagement
  with the full range
of our emotions:

deep tears
  of discomfort and anxiety,
  rich laughter
of hope and delight;

all the while refusing
  to blame others for our pain,
    yet ever-ready
  to accept their support
when it’s offered.

If you want to experience
  childlike faith: laugh, cry,
  rest, observe in awe,
wonder, accept help.”


“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”(Matthew 11:28-30)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Prop and Gander

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When truth is a fire
  too hot for us to handle,
  whether it’s because
  we’re unable or unwilling
  to see its unadorned self
  standing right in front of us, or 

we’ve been seduced by any
  of the myriad alternative blends
  of ego and comfort,
  we are likely to tip
  our hand by confession
  cloaked in accusation.

Unable to avert our gaze
  from self-worship,
  we confuse our own beguiling
  with the actions of others.

It is here, from the perch
  where we feel authorized
  to prop and gander,
  that we conjure
  the smoke and mirrors
  of propaganda.

Deliver us, O God,
  from the claws of such
  self and other deception;
  keep us from the destruction
  of self and other decapitation,

for we are sore in need
  of a powerful tincture
  of honesty, authenticity,
  and integrity.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins