Respecting the awesome power of words!

awareness

Counting Questions

DeEttaHJenkins

Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

There are expenses
we regularly calculate, but
there are others we ignore.

In order to see the big picture,
we can't just ask,
"How much does it cost
to do such-and-such?" or
"How much does it cost
to not do it?"

We must recognize that
costs can be attached
to more than our wallets.
Here are some
of the gospel's calculating questions:

What will it cost my heart & soul
to do or not do this?
What will doing or
not doing this cost my family?
What will this action or
inaction cost my neighbor?
What will these choices
cost the planet?

The universe is expanded
by gracious choices.
It is diminished
by greedy ones.

The cost is outrageous
for all these priceless lives;
secretly calculated in hearts
too small to hold Love's grand truth;

too scared to see all of us
have the same value;
too busy counting and comparing
to feel the ground beneath us quaking,
the skies above us tearing.

We shrink because we sense difference,
recoil with superiority's confidence,
while the universe expands and diversifies
and the holy one weeps.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Entitlement

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When greed has run amuck,
words are turned inside-out,
like shirts that have missed
a much-needed trip
to the laundry,
stinking to high heaven,
and only discerned
by those who are
attentive to the seams.

Those in whose favor
everything's been tilted
for generations, and
in whose pockets piles
of plunder reside,
misconstrue language
to attack others
upon whose backs
castles are built.

"If they are without,"
the dictionary is rewritten
to declare,
"anything we allow them
to have must be entitlement."

And the one who created
the universe, via a vocabulary
with integrity, winces,
as tears roll down like
an ever-flowing stream,
because those whose hubris
is actually entitlement
have abandoned their own kin.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Enough

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To the person for whom
there's never enough,
there's always suspicion
others want your stuff.

The one who is
consumed with greed,
will never be touched
by hunger and need.

If comparison's the game
by which you thrive,
the train of joy
will never arrive.

Look at what you have,
instead of what's lacking;
it’s an important step
to send discontent packing.

Seeing the big picture
is a form of art
that fashions a glad
and generous heart.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


One and the Same Time

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By memory we define ourselves;
bits and pieces of days gone by,
fed by stored mental photographs,
watered by emotion's tears
of both sorrow and joy
at one and the same time.

Through memory we anchor ourselves
to pasts cringeworthy and exemplary
at one and the same time.

Growing memory, we construct ourselves
into observers of each present moment,
anchored by virtue's roots and
rising above villain's graves
at one and the same time.

In sleeping memory,
we dream ourselves into tomorrows,
slogging through valleys of despair
and wafting on currents of celestial breath
at one and the same time.

Searching for  memory,
we watch loved ones lose
bits and pieces of their story,
lamenting fragments
faded long-past sepia
and rejoicing in brief flashes
of love and cognizance
at one and the same time.

In memory we hallow special days,
honoring so many brave ones
who've sacrificed and pushing back
against the hell of war's existence
at one and the same time.

Resurrecting memory,
we weave a sacred response
to grace's unfettered gift,
lamenting all the times
it steadily swirls around us unnoticed
and praising Yahweh for the glimpses
convincing us to dive in headlong
at one and the same time.

By memory we were and
are and will continue to be held,
when we've forgotten all and
when we’ve remembered scarcely enough
at one and the same time.

Memory: our deepest curse
and richest blessing
at one and the same time.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

This Just In

LL McPhoto by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Fear divides, intent
on conquering with its,
“Vive la différence!”

Love unites, earnestly
calling us together,
“Vive la similarité!”

What matters is not 
the color of our skin,
the roots of our faith,
or the nation of our origin,

but whether privilege
can truly be acknowledged,
voluntarily relinquished,
and power bestowed with grace,

so long-held shackles
can be hammered
into step-ladders of hope.

It is past time for us
to work better, together,
nourishing and quenching
a world hungry for dignity
and thirsty for respect.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Holy Ground

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“Observe the drama; 
don't be the drama.” 

On the beach,
you can remove your sandals
and walk parallel
to the ocean,
letting the waves lap
at your feet when they're
at their weakest –
the turning point –
just before the water's energy
pulls it back toward
the edge of earth and sky.

The wet and not-wet,
soft and firm sand
at the edge of the tide
is holy ground.

Further inland,
from which daily existence
seems to call,
it feels like burning bushes
are more common,
and our feet quickly begin
to scorch as we are pulled
from fire to fire.

Fire-walkers will tell you
that, even with seasoned soles,
we must wait for the ash
to form over the smoldering coals
before we dare
to pass over someone else's drama.

I think this requires sitting
and listening longer,
moving and speaking less.

Maybe it also requires love.

Perhaps there is
no true resurrection
without love, because, 
sans the particularity
of deep-marrow knowing
and being known,
bringing back people
from the dead is a parlor trick
at best, and Groundhog Day
at worst, in which we have
to suffer the same
anonymous meaninglessness
of life over and over,
convinced that a single detail changed
will somehow create a fairy tale life.

Let us love deeply;
deeper today than yesterday;
deeper tomorrow than today;
deeper giving than we've received;
deeper from the tomb
than we can imagine escaping.

Yes, deeply, for this is how
we find ourselves being raised
out of that which never
really approached life anyway.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Priesthood of All Believers

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When chaos,
disaster, disease,
and even death
invade others' lives,

our presence,
mostly in silence,
will mediate grace
much more wholly
than telling them
our comparative story.

The time for narrative connection
may come, but give us courage,
O God, to wait
until we're invited.

It won’t likely occur
until grief and agony
have held their sway,
and hope has wafted in
through a window partially cracked
by our steadfast,
listening presence.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Counting

 

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Yes, we feel numbers
being flung at us
from the budget,
as well as the calendar,
and the clock,
like the daggers
from a stage act,
and we swear we've never
seen the blindfolded wielder before.

But while we're bobbing and weaving,
clinging to the hope that
we'll make it to next year
and beyond with a modicum
of courage, sanity, and purpose,
I have a few
molasses-freezing questions;
ones that might unpack
a dream we don't remember.

They seem to me to be
the kind of questions
that our revered institutions
must face in this
particular time and place:

What if we found out
that the thing we financially
couldn't afford to do
was the very thing
we organizationally and existentially
couldn't afford not to do?

To put it another way:
Which costs matter most,
and how will we count them?
What risks must we take
in order to face
the future with integrity?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

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

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