Respecting the awesome power of words!

choices

Reflection

reflect3

 

      Advent is an annual festival
    remembering us into
  the story of love’s
complete arrival in the flesh.

        Once written into the narrative,
      we have to choose
    between accepting
  what has chosen us,
or not.

      There exists within the human soul
    a freedom to choose
  the slavery of ignoring,
rejecting, and abandoning love.

      It is a painful, diminishing choice
    that, once made,
  can only be overcome
by the very thing not chosen.

        Those possessed by love
      have the antidote
    to undo the curse,
  but they can only do so
by rejecting reciprocity

    and, instead,
  reflecting the image
of the gift’s giver.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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Holidays

zholidays

 

The holidays are open season
on economic greed;
no bag limits,
and no limitations
on baiting.

If you venture out
(literally or virtually),
you're fair game,
and the gifts of family
and presence
may be threatened
by the marketing of presents.

To keep your perspective:
hug, listen to,
and spend time with
those who matter;

if you buy something,
do it by choice,
not because
of seasonal expectation;

buy local, instead
of feeding the corporate beast,
and find a way
to shop on any day
but Thanksgiving
or Black Friday.

That is all.
Carry on!

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Sutherland Springs

sutherlandPhoto by Owen Jenkins

 

“Thoughts and prayers” screech
in my ears like fingernails
across a chalkboard,
regurgitate into my throat
like the most heinous of tastes
come back to haunt me,
a platitudinous chaff
of phraseology.

   In the motionless void
   that follows, my eardrums
   are pierced by the echo
   of gunfire;

      another mass shooting,
      further propelling
      the land of the free
      to an insurmountable lead
      in the gold medal chase
      for death by firearms.

   We cry “terror!”
   when we see difference,
   and “mental illness!”
   or “lone wolf”
   when familiarity surfaces,
   all the while
   doubling down on weaponization,
   as if terminal violence
   were the antidote to rage.

Is there a tipping point
where the right to die
of some other cause
rises to the level
of the right to bear arms?

   Or should we bury hope
   next to the latest
   bullet-riddled victims,
   shrugging our shoulders
   in surrender
   as the second amendment
   rises to the throne
   of supreme deity?

Lord, have mercy,
because we have
completely lost the capacity
to birth it ourselves!

   © 2017 Todd Jenkins

Live It

fallA sermon riff on Matthew 23:1-12

 

The Pharisees’ talk 
is miles ahead of their walk,
their show far outpaces their go,
a saint is one thing they ain't.

Jesus differentiates between
the ones who are just
a flash in their own pan
and the ones the light shines through.

They're only platitudes
when our speaking
of them far exceeds
our living of them;

when what we say
is incongruent
with what we live;

when the verbal art
we paint is light years
beyond the canvas
of our ways;

when our talk and walk
are a bait and switch;
when we voice grace
but breathe fear.

The Communion of Saints includes
all those who ask forgiveness
when they live transactionally;
all those who choose
to see beyond binary thinking;
all those who find ways
to allow the transformational power
of grace to both enter in and pour out
of their broken, cracked places.

When the power of resurrection
seeps into our brokenness
at all the thin places
and thin times of our lives,

it is so radical and transformational
that the transactional world
cannot deal with it.

We begin to let go of all the pretending,
all the perfection, comparison, competition,
scarcity, fear, blaming, hoarding, ego;
all of the things by which
we had been controlled.

We begin to play by different rules.
The old rules, hard and fast
as they are, become insignificant;
not because we are above them,
but because we have been
moved beyond them.

We can no longer see and act
in binary fashion, checking off lists
of things we will or won't do
because they are right or wrong.

We are both under the control
of and set free by something
much bigger than law.

We are living through Love,
which turns out to be a messy,
complicated rule that refuses
to be exclusively held by anyone
or nailed to any particular place or time.

This Love is a gift.
We didn't earn it.
We don't own it.
We can't choose who deserves it,
because nobody does,
including us.

Yet it's been given to us anyway;
not just parceled out to us stingily,
but poured out on us extravagantly;

given to us so that
we can let its gift and power
soak all the way
to the marrow of our bones,

flushing out all hurt and hatred,
and all other lies of "not enough"
all falsehoods of “not good enough”;

given to us so that
we can reflect it to others;
so that we can share it
with everyone we meet.

Unlike all that other stuff
that controlled us,
this Love shrinks and dies
when we try to hoard it,
but grows and blossoms
when we give it away.

This is our mission –
our life's purpose
from this day forward –

to let the rule of Love
free us to respond with grace,
not because anyone has earned it,
but because we are all
dying without it.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Call of the Song

zcall of the song

 

A song we all know well
  called and left a message:
    I’m music, written from
      a particular place and time,
    intended to stir human souls
  to passion and magnanimity,
through both my tune and lyrics.

When I begin to fail at that task,
  as the cracks and limitations of my era’s
    sociocultural ignorance magnify,
      don’t set off smokescreens,
    dig your heels in blindly,
  or deify me, for fear of loss/change.

Instead, listen to one another’s
  story and experiences,
    together, creating a present and future
      out of which more hopeful tunes
    and lyrics can be
  given birth and live.

Remember, I’m here to serve
  at your collective pleasure,
    not to have you serve at mine.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

DBV

zDBV

 

      Death by violence;
    it is the trademark
  of a culture predicated
on consumption as arrival
  and competition for survival.

      The socioeconomic sausage grinder
    uses people like inanimate ingredients
  in a secret family recipe,
where nothing matters
  but the finished product,
    and the only ones not
      on the menu are those
    who’ve schemed or entitled
  their way to a table for one.

      When you hear the engine groan
    for lack of fodder, and
  squeal for lack of lubricant,
be sure to check the list
  of ingredients needed
    to satisfy the beast.

      No matter the euphemism
    behind which it's cloaked,
  if what's really called for
are the bones and blood
  of human lives,
    maybe it's time to build
      a more just machine;

      time to confess
    that stockpiled weaponry,
  war’s machinery,
tilted and justified incarceration,
  and border-based enslavement
    aren’t really meant
      to keep us safe or
    help the weak defend
  and provide for themselves,
but to keep power mongers on top. 

      Maybe it’s time to take
    this kind of sausage
  off the menu, and
search our collective souls
  for more sustainable fare.

            © 2017 Todd Jenkins

Eternity

zeternity-ashley goadPhoto by Ashley Goad

 

The church marquee read,
"We will all have eternal life.
Where will you choose
to spend yours?"

as if either eternity itself,
or the choice we make
regarding it, or both, are located
somewhere in the (distant?) future.

Eternity is not just
a future proposition.

By definition, it extends
in both directions across
the time continuum for infinity,
beginning long before any
of us breathed our first,
and continuing long after any
of us breathe our last. 

The more relevant question, then,
is not how WILL we spend eternity,
but how ARE we already spending
the part of it during which
we have life and breath?

We can accept judgmentalism and fear,
or we can choose grace and hope.

One choice feels like hell’s death
already sucking the life out of us;
the other, like paradise
being born, day by day. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


weR1

trails2

Throughout history, people
have cordoned themselves off
by self-identification in layers,
climbing and clamoring to stand
on top of something or someone –
anyone or anything – just as long
as they do not believe
they are at the bottom.

In so doing, the bodies beneath
their feet are eventually construed
to be less than human.

The hardest lesson of all,
and one that upends
the whole fragile pile,
unfolds when we wake up
and realize that dehumanizing itself
is what sentences dehumanizers
to their own judgment;

and those whose hope, 
no matter how fragile and
compressed by the vitriol,
has held through the storm,
are the only ones who can lift us
all toward the sacred purpose
of our shared humanity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Life

zlife

    It is never really
    if the pain, loss, hurt,
    or grief come,
    but when.

  It is not just
  "What will you do?"
  or "Where will you turn?"
  but also, most significantly,
  "Who will you be?";

not just in it,
but also through it,
beyond it, and even
because of it.

  It's more than
  "How will it change you?";
  it's also "How will you offer
  others a chance to change?" 
  and even "How will you
  change the world?"

    Welcome to life,
    caterpillar.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Empty and Broken

zempty&broken

In a culture hell-bent on grasping,
patching, and covering up,
faith's call to empty ourselves
and embrace our brokenness
is arduous; but

as long as we are full –
of ourselves or our privilege
or anything else – and as long
as we pretend that we are flawless,
there is neither room nor path
for divine grace's infusion to us
and effusion from us.

Psalm 46:10's beginning statement
is often translated,
"Be still, and know
that I am God."
Its first Hebrew word, רָפָה (rapha)
can also be translated
"relax" or "let go".

Let go – empty yourself
of all you're trying to make
of yourself –  and know
that I am God.

We are never closer
to holy ground than when
we are standing
on common ground.

Being fully human is the result
of recognizing sparks
of both the self and the divine
in others, especially in those
we've been taught
to despise and devalue.

This may be the only
vantage point from which
we can truly ditch
all fear of scarcity,
all inflated pretense
of competitively-induced
self-worthiness and earning,

finally and fully relinquishing us all
to God's abundant mercy and grace.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins