Respecting the awesome power of words!

courage

Pall

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To say it casts itself,
like fisherfolk with their nets,
is as apt a description
as I can render.

Only there are no holes
to let light through,
only thick, suffocating,
blanket-like heaviness
to trap you underwater.

No one knows
where it comes from
or how it chooses
to settle on you
and not a stranger
whose flailing would barely create
a noticeable tremor in our web.

Clinicians speak
of perfect storms
and chemical imbalances  --
the likes of hail and hell
you wish and pray
were completely beyond conjuring.

When the darkness falls heaviest,
and your ears and heart
begin to funnel words
into ever-shrinking strings,
let these be the ones
sinking all the way
to the bottom of your soul,
to a place where pain is held
by love -- the only power
strong enough to not let go:

You are love with us.
You are love with.
You are love.
You are.
You.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Counting Questions

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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

Fire@50

IMG_9436Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

(A riff on Acts 2 & Numbers 11)
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Numbers 11: 27And a young man ran and told Moses, 
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 
28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, 
one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”



Spirit, Spirit, wild-eyed wonder;
into room and hearts you rushed,
tongues of fire and claps of thunder;
mouths to ears your burning gushed.

Risen one ten days ascended;
dif'rence must be set aside;
call to hope freshly extended;
forgiveness freely applied.

Eldad, Medad break out speaking,
ut’ring truths as yet untold.
Call on Moses, "Stop the leaking;
they're too brazen, far too bold!"

Rules braided in hangman's tight noose,
keeping others in their place,
now untwisted, completely loose,
making room for gushing grace.

To be sure, and not be unfair,
faith soars high on earth's quaking,
mercy pours richly everywhere
with Spirit's new inbreaking.

Millennia have waxed and waned
since holy fire filled the air.
As Peter's tongue boldly explained,
ears of fire are everywhere!

Fill our spirits from your deep reach
with connection, love, and care;
give us hearts and voices to preach
grace’s story everywhere.

Give us, O torch sent wild and free,
strength to withstand all danger,
risking all we are and can be
welcoming knocking stranger.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Blanket

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Prayers surround you
like a generations-old blanket,
pieces of stories and times past
stitched together
with a myriad of emotions,
dusty with the scent
from faded memories
of many a stripe and ilk,
stuffed with down
from birds long-since
traversed Tennyson's bar.
May you find warmth, comfort,
and sufficient breath
for such a starless sky,
all gently pulling you
into dawns to come.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Scar

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We are a people of scars,
neither guaranteed protection
nor escape
from pain's slice and consequences.

  But we are also created
  for healing;
  not healing whose visibility
  or consequences vanish;

    people who are found
    by a forgiveness
    that debrides our wounds,
    rinsing away anger, malice,
    resentment, and vengeance,
    disinfecting them with grace,
    packing them with mercy;
    people whose flesh falls back together,
    not in seamless invisibility,
    but rough, bumpy reminders
    of our past;
    people who somehow
    find the courage to seek catharsis
    in our history's telling;

  people whose hearts
  are forever being pointed
  toward the true north of hope.

Yes, this is who we are;
not perfected but blemished,
not fearless but courageous,
not arrived but journeying;
journeying together.

© 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

 


Poet

IMG_9436Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

To borrow a book title from one of my seminary professors, 
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet.

space-maker, mold-breaker, heart-shaker…

thought-drifter, shape-shifter, dream-sifter…

bell-ringer, tear-bringer, sweat-wringer…

trip-booker, fresh-looker, love-cooker…

beast-tamer, peace-framer, grace-namer…

risk-taker, earth-quaker, hope-baker…

© 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