Respecting the awesome power of words!

courage

Achilles

zachilles

So protected was he,
that we all imagined
he was invincible,
until we read the rest
of the story, or lived enough
of life to know,
first-hand — or first-heel,
as the case may be —
that creation is constructed
not on invincibility,
but vulnerability.

Many a woe and worry
has been stacked
by freshly-unearthed susceptibility,
raising both respiration and pulse,
if not blood pressure.

Somewhere through
the repetitive unfolding
of month after month
and year after year,
we begin to at least suspect,
if not be nearly convinced,
that love and breath
and even life itself
are born through
and carried on the tears
of absence, loss, and pain;

not in masochistic
or fatalistic fashion,
but in recognition
that hope rises
both out of and above
stretching, bleeding, scarring,
and even death itself,

fashioning us into a people
yearning to risk the tenderness
of grace on other fragile creatures
if for no other reason
than a wispy memory
of being reborn, ourselves,
from those who dared gamble
such resurrecting acts  
on our hour of profound brokenness.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins
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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

Now Is the Time

IMG_7219Now Is the Time

There lies deep within 
  the human heart — yours,
    mine, and everyone else's — 
      a vision and desire 
    for how life is supposed 
  to be lived;

images of connection 
  without coercion, 
    dreams of enough 
      without competition, 
    hunger for community 
  without uniformity,

thirst for intimacy 
  without betrayal, 
    hope for understanding 
      without judgment, 
    longing for love 
  without condition.

All this is within us; 
  divine spark planted 
    before we were born.

There is but one impediment 
  to our bringing this vision 
    to life: fear.

Fear is a liar.

That is why so many stories
  of divine encounter begin
    with the holy plea, 
      "Fear not!"

Now is the time for us 
  to live from a deep place; 
    to rise up to the grace 
      for which we were created.

Now is the time for hope 
  to reveal the strong roots 
    she has sunk 
      in communities of faith, 
    to nourish our courage.

Now is the time.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


Reach

zreach

Yesterday's festive sun-gazers
give little indication
of their recent glory,
as stooped and tired looking
as octogenarian day laborers
deprived of their pension.

We are all little more
than raisins in the sun,
as Mr. Hughes reminded us,
subject to so much pressure
from within, without;

fragile dreams escaping
into the night, or not,
whose purpose and connection
are surely, purely gift,
unless and until the bubble’s burst
by hate unleashed, and fear cursed.

Dream on; dream until
your dreams come true.
Shine, smile, stretch, reach,
as long as you’re rooted
in the garden of life,
if for no other reason
than someone else needs
to see you hope out loud.

© 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

Weeping

zweeping

While Ezra prayed and made confession, 
weeping and throwing himself down 
before the house of God, 
a very great assembly of men, 
women, and children gathered 
to him out of Israel; 
the people also wept bitterly. 
[Ezra 10:1]

In weeping, our hearts
are wrung out
of all that stands
between us and our true selves,
between us and our neighbors,
between us and God.

In every province, 
wherever the king’s command 
and his decree came, 
there was great mourning 
among the Jews, with fasting 
and weeping and lamenting, 
and most of them lay 
in sackcloth and ashes.
[Esther 4:3]

Our squeezed-out spirits
can then absorb the gifts
we need for the lives
to which we’ve been called.

Jesus began to weep.
[John 11:35]

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Let Freedom Ring

IMG_7296

They didn’t and don’t put
their lives on the line
to save a flag or
to demand we all stand
or revere a song;

but to give citizens of their nation —
all citizens — the chance
to enjoy lives of dignity,
respect, and opportunity.

When forces within a national culture,
economy, and infrastructure
thwart such freedom for some,
pushing them to call attention
to such incongruity by the exercise
of a first amendment right,
it’s not flag or nation being disrespected,
but the notion that one experience
is the only one that’s normative.

Waving patriotism, nationalism,
or soldiers’ service and sacrifice
as objection to the objection,
are red herrings, as is the suggestion
that there are less offensive methods,
since acceptability is a big part
of what renders outcry ineffective.

Instead of attempting to  
to force all into lockstep,
may our discomfort drive us
toward the recognition
of systemic injustice,
and to a table where ears lean in
to understand, rather than recoil
to fashion argument and disagreement.

Dismissing and refusing to listen
to the stories of protesters
is the surest way to escalate
refraction of their experience
while delegitimizing their lives.

To object to dissent is to miss
the whole point of freedom.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Illumination

zillumination

Our world, O God,
is dark-averse.

We are so afraid of what’s
in the closet, under the bed,
and in the dark,
that we have created
artificial light for everywhere;

battery powered,
solar powered,
keychain flashlights,
cell phone flashlights;

we have become
a never-without-light society.

Even our religion succumbs
to this blinding, full-solar effect,
attempting to protect us
from ever seeing a shadow.

Each day we gather
around your Word
and your table,
remind us of all
that can be gained
from the dark, and
from recognizing and accepting
our shadow selves.

Remind us of all the times
when we couldn’t detect
your presence in our full-solar world,
but finally saw, heard,
tasted, and felt you
in the quietude of our midnights.

Speak your truth
into the varied lumens
of our reality,
and give us courage
to take the next step
with more faith in you
than in our flashlights;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© 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