Respecting the awesome power of words!

choices

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

IMG_2980

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

 


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

 


Generosity

patrick 03
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)

 

This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.

Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.

Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.

patrick 01

A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.

A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school.  Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.

This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.

patrick 02

Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


Counting

 

IMG_9681

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

IMG_9679

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

Instead

lee l mckinney 4Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Liberation, like grace,
when advocated by humans,
always has limits.

At some point in the story
of our history and community
we all draw a line;

a mark in the sand to which
we are wholly oblivious,
until someone on the other side
points it out.

Christianity attempts to follow
the narrative of the God-Human;
the only one whose love
was unlimited; the one
who drew expansive circles,
instead.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Somebody Else’s Babies

FullSizeRender (25)

It's a convenient way
to distance ourselves
from both blame and responsibility;

"Somebody else"
is a sly way of saying,
"Don't look at me!"
But it actually makes me
want to stare; to stare and ask,
"Just who do we think we aren't?"

No matter how many barriers
with which we desperately
surround ourselves –
racial, economic, national, religious –
our shared DNA
of biology and spirituality
denies every construct of "other."

If we aren't our sister's keeper,
whatever else we're keeping
isn't worth it.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

ing

img_8850

In consideration
of hatred, fear,
xenophobia, and division
for personal or political gain,
it's easy to sit back
and speculate, "What
would you do?"

Once speculation has
not only left the station,
but also disembarked
from multiple platforms,
the only question
worth asking is,
"What AM I DOING?"

Present participles are
the only engines
worth putting on this track.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

For These Times

Prayers of the People for January 29, 2017.

img_6192

Photo by Lizzie Mazariegos

We live, O God,
 in a fearful and divided culture;
  separated, not just
   from other faiths and nations,
    but also from the people
     who live in our neighborhoods,
     work with us,
    go to school with us,
   and even from some of the ones
  with whom we break bread
on a regular basis.

Our faith's rich tradition
 calls us away
  from such anxiety and estrangement,
   reminding us that we are
    all in this together;
     and contrary to Cain's
   distancing of himself
  from Abel's buried body,
 we ARE our neighbors' keeper, 
in neighborhoods without borders.

We pray, O Lord,
 for guidance and wisdom,
  as we navigate our personal,
 community, state,
and national roadmaps.

Show us the narrow
 highway of love,
  even as it winds through
 the challenging mountains
of relationship, listening, and sacrifice.

Give us feathers on our skin,
 bones hollow yet strong,
  courage of the clouds,
   so we won't be pulled long
   earthward by gravity's fear,
  but freed instead to float
 on rising currents of hope,
higher into grace's atmosphere. 

If only it were so easy,
 O God, like poetry rolling
  off our tongues,
 whisking us to happily ever after;
but we know better.

Our lives bear the bruises
 of broken hearts;
 our families carry the scars
of shattered dreams.

Give us this day,
 O storytelling dream-catcher,
 both tenacity and tenderness
for the living of these days.

Give us the gifts we need
 to open the doors of welcome
  to a world hungry and thirsty
 to know that your story
is also their story.

These and all prayers
 we ask in the name
  of the one who fed, healed,
  and welcomed the broken
 to a table of abundance;
Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins