Respecting the awesome power of words!

courage

Smoldering

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Perhaps, love can be
broad and wide,
the way fields of wheat
slowly stretch across
the Midwest plain,
meting out their grain
as daily Eucharist.

But it can also be
deep and swift,
like a fierce river
cutting through a canyon,
washing us downstream
toward an ocean of delight.

It seems, for any given
person, place, and time,
we neither get
to choose the terrain
on which their love finds us,
nor when it takes flight,
winging toward tomorrow,
fragmented pieces
of our hearts in tow.

Ours is the task
of withstanding
the cavernous echo
of its passing,
cobbling together
a sense of hope
from the memories
and ashes of a flame
no longer burning.

Ours is also the call
to add the wood
of our own bones,
while we still can,
to the fires
of those around us,
in hopes
that our own embers
may somehow
help to kindle
others’ remembrances
of grace sufficient
for opening hands and eyes
to resurrection.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Color Me Here

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Whatever choices you have
in your box of crayons;
whatever their condition —

worn down to a nubbin,
paper peeled and tattered,
broken in half —

take the one
whose hue reflects presence
and absorbs distance;

use it to fill in the spaces
between the lines
of the real-life drawing
that are me.

However that appears,
it’s who I want to be.

When words have
run their course,
for better or worse,
and nothing’s left
worth saying,

I’ll sit with you 
in the silence,
as we remember
what we can of yesterday,
as we struggle
to breathe through the weight
of today’s hurt,
as we hope our way
into tomorrow.

Yes, take that crayon
and color me here.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Against the Pall

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I have come to realize, more and more, that the core purpose and power of ministry is naming people’s angst and giving them permission to plumb the depths of their feelings. Otherwise, we have no escape route from the implosive culture of denial and anesthesia in which we reside.

It matters not
that this cycle
has rhythmically appeared
year after year,
the sun becoming
a short-timer
in our sphere.

  The weight of darkness
  bears down,
  like concrete blocks
  on our chests.

    Then comes
    the exponential factor
    of medical derailment;
    the return of one
    who was most unwelcome
    the first time around;

      now doubly so,
      as we have seen
      the physiological
      and emotional tsunami
      this cellular demon leaves
      in its wake.

    Enough, already,
    and more!

  Come holy pneuma,
  breathe your hope
  into our lungs,
  our bones,
  our very souls!

Inflate our lives
with your grace,
and Lazarus us
once more
with the fire
of your love!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Revolution

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So often I have longed
 and looked for her
  to arrive on stately steed,
   impenetrable coat of mail,
    shield, sword, and spear
  to multiply the fear, 
 as I sit idly by, 
enjoying the show.

      When she appears,
     demurely standing beside
    all whose necks bear
   the boot print of power,
  all who’re on the menu,
 steadily waving
the flag of resistance,
 I look right past her,
  blinded by the irony
    of a privilege that’s unable
      to recognize anything but
       the love of power,
         impervious to
          the power of love.

Still, she refuses
 to throw me under the bus,
 declines to send me
to a seat in the rear.

   “Sing with us.” she invites.
  “The revolution will uproot
 fear and hatred,
not with looking glass’
 shield and retribution,
  but by the resonance
  of neighbor and
   the restoration of love.”

That's when the fire 
 in my bones is stoked, 
  and I can more clearly see 
    where my own words and actions 
  can add to the dismantling 
 of the leaning tower, and 
lay a foundation for hope.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Hunger

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We thought that accumulating
a treasury of resources,
regardless of the cost to others
and to the planet,
would somehow soothe
the hunger in our souls.

What we failed to recognize
was the depth of need
in our marrow,
and the reality
that this ravenous maw’s desire
could only be satisfied
by listening to and integrating
the narratives of other people
into our own stories.

Thus, the hospitality
of open ears and hearts
becomes the divine gift
through which
lives are intertwined,
famine is abated,
and the cosmos’ heartbeat
is extended.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Grappling

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Laughter and crying
  are at opposite ends
    of a spectrum
  both of whose extremities
are incredulity.

The former,
  buoyed by possibility;
  the latter,
weighed down with dread.

The line between them
  is neither straight,
  nor two-dimensional,
but curved, spherical.

When they back up
  to one another,
    on the shadowed side
     of our universe,
    we sometimes say
  we’re laughing
to keep from crying.

That’s when
  fear and hope
  are grappling
for our soul;

when we can’t yet discern
  whether the burgeoning light
    rising over the eastern mountains
      is another raging dumpster fire,
   the torching
  of a chaparral called home,
 or the hopeward resurrection
of the morning sun.

Keep wrestling,
  mi amigos; the light
is on your side.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Sing Our Faith

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Can we sing our faith;
let our instruments
accompany us along a journey
through the valleys
of pain, loss, and despair?

The beat and rhythm
of percussion and keyboard,
the synthesis of two hands
and their family of fingers
sliding and gliding
across the frets and strings,
pressing and plucking out
deep, heartfelt connections
to soulful gashes that refuse
to succumb to the grief
and chaos that have
crashed their way
into our bones and lives;

these are what give
power and energy to voices
wailing the dissonance
of our suffering,
their courageous tremolo and vibrato,
conjuring hope ex nihilo.

Without music’s smoldering fire,
creation’s dream of love
would surely be extinguished.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

The Message

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(Ode to Eugene)

I saw and heard you, 
years ago, in Chicago. 

You’re among a handful 
of folks, including 
Buechner, Brueggemann, 
Duck and Tirabassi, Harris, 
whose deeply grounded 
creative tether shined a light 
into the cave of imagination 
and allegory, inviting, 
if not pulling me toward 
a rich heritage far beyond 
the shadowed puppets 
of my youth. 

You were among those 
who gave me courage 
and hope 
to unleash the muse -- 
Calliope, as she has self-identified --  
into this particular place 
and time. 

Horatio extends the summons, 
“Goodnight sweet prince, 
and flights of angels 
sing thee to thy rest.”

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

The Empty Chair

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(Whispering with our Jobs)

 

I would draw us
a picture of integrity,
with my stick-figure artistic skill,
so we could clearly see
the image toward which
we are called to live,
so we might feel the breath
of hope on our necks;

but I’m all out of paper,
and the point
of my pencil cannot
bear the weight
of the space between us;

so, instead,
I’m just going
to sit here beside you
in silence, listening
to the echo
of your psalmic distress,
offering you little more
than the percussion
of my beating heart,
the rhythm of my respiration.

In trying
to absorb your lament,
I feel distant repercussions
of the kick to your gut
delivered by the emptiness
of divine absence.

I will not feign
to answer the pain
of your abandonment
with elementary lessons
learned from my life
that are more non sequiturs
than I realize.

Instead, how ‘bout if I sit
in the vacuum with you,
until your subpoena
of the divine kicks in
and the empty chair is filled?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Violation

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Your courage is inspiring.
Never underestimate
or forget that.

  I feel a fire.
  At first I believe
  it is yours only;
  the coals of anger
  and rage, fueled
  by violations
  and their attempts
  to dehumanize you.

    After I stand uncomfortably
    near the heat
    for a while,
    my bare feet blistered
    from its remnants,
    I realize that I do not
    want it to be yours alone.

  I want — I need —
  for it to be mine;
  not because doing so
  will reveal the depth
  of your ache in ways
  I can fully comprehend;

but because a candle
flickers in my dreams,
dawning on me,
like the sun rising
across distant mountains,

  casting both light and shadows
  on my own identity,
  revealing a painting
  of worth and healing
  that is inextricably woven
  into this inferno.

    In morning’s light,
    I realize that we
    must have worth together,
    or we will have
    no worth at all.

  I know that my tears
  will not cool, much less
  extinguish the blaze,

but I also know
that their flow
is the path
that connects us,
not only to one another,
but also to the selves
of dignity and respect
for which we were created.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins