Respecting the awesome power of words!

awareness

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

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

 


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

commitment

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

 


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

 


Spoken Hearts

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Those who are
 vocabulary-challenged,
  and/or overcome by fear,
  often feel forced
 to abandon oral communication
in favor of violence;

the bravest, or perhaps
 the most desperate,
perpetrate physical aggression;

those with lesser gumption
 often assault language itself,
  waging battle against long-held meaning,
 gas-lighting society
into lexical confusion.

The rest of us
 are then tasked
  to hold firm
   to the tension
    between conflict
     forced upon us,
    and the eternal possibility
   of language,
  refusing to abandon
 the common ground
of our shared meanings.

In the end,
 war’s horror cannot
  stand on its own;
  and words, with their
 community interpretations,
will win,

because our common story
 outlives every other blitzkrieg,
  and love’s vocal evocation
 eventually woos
even frozen, trembling hearts.

          And now faith, hope, 
          and love abide, these three; 
          and the greatest of these is love. 
          (1 Corinthians 13:13)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Here We Are

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I wanted my words
to make a difference;
not just the words
that leaked out of my mouth
in the heat of the moment,

but the words that seeped
out of my veins, carrying parts
of me from the deepest places
I’ve yet to plumb,

when your pain stabbed me
with the dull side of its blade,
its razor edge sunk
to the hilt in your heart.

I wanted my blood
to make a difference;
but it didn’t.

At least, it didn’t effect
the wispy dream of reconciliation
I constructed with letters,
punctuation, and space —
lots of space.

So, here we are,
on the far side of words —
on the dried side of blood —
and the wet side of tears;

still groping for the edge
of the grave,
still hoping for breath
not squeezed tight
by pain and rejection.

Here we are.

Here we are.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Siblings

lpatrick2Photo by Linda Patrick

 

“Justice and peace
will kiss each other."
- Psalm 85:10

Justice and Peace embrace
in a warm hug and
double-cheek kiss

because they’re long-lost siblings,
separated soon after birth
by cultures, societies, nations,
and people who cannot see
and believe God’s generosity
and extravagance;

a blind disbelieving which tilts
the world toward selfishness,
greed, anxiety, and fear.

In the tension of such shrinking,
their (J’s & P’s) mother
had to ship them off
to separate family members
to be raised, while she
continually cleans up the messes
and patches the rent fabric
in societies that
tiny-hearted people create.

At least, that’s
the story I’m dreaming.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins