Respecting the awesome power of words!

courage

Be

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Esse quam videri –
 literally, “To be,
rather than to seem.”
is the North Carolina state motto.

It has also been translated,
“Be who you are.”

If ever there was
a “be and not just seem” one,
it was God-with-skin-on
from Nazareth,
whose parents named him “Jesus.”

I spent most
(okay, pretty much ALL)
of my first 30 years focused
on proving other people wrong.

That is, when someone said,
“You can’t/don’t know
how to do that.”
(because you’re left-handed,
too small/weak, young,
from a small town,
not educated enough, etc.),
I set out to prove them wrong.

Even though I became
quite adept at this,
one day, I realized
my life choices were based,
not on any inner sense
of purpose or drive,
but merely on competing
against the expectations of others.

I’ve spent the last 28+ years
learning to let go
of that need to prove
my enoughness to anyone,
including myself.

Wilderness, whether it’s mountains,
lakes, desert, or somewhere else,
is a place where the taunting voices
can most fully be shed,

giving me ears to hear
and heart to focus
on my own breath,

and helping me recognize
where and how my own worth
is validated, not in
the meeting or defeating
of others’ expectations,

but through the defining
and developing of self
in mutually healthful
service to the world.

Thanks be to God!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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A Mom’s Dream

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Mother Earth hopes,
  at the core
    of her molten magma,
      that we will soon wake up

    to the divine declaration,
  proclaimed at the universe’s dawning,
that we are all connected,

and our purpose is
  to pull together,
    instead of apart,

      so we all experience
    a full unfolding
  of dignity, worth, and respect. 

Otherwise, we’ll become
  little more than momentary fireworks
    in a recalculation
      of global proportions.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Yes and No

IMG_8937Photo by Ashley Goad

Let your word be 
‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; 
anything more than this 
comes from the evil one. 
(Matthew 5:37)

Say yes to the rhythm
of your marrow;
yes to walking deliberately;
yes to listening attentively;

yes to considering prayerfully;
yes to speaking gently;
yes to acting compassionately;
yes to holding tenderly;

and as these yeses unfold
into the world,
you will find the wisdom,
strength, and courage
to say no;

no to division;
no to fear;
no to othering;
no to assuming;
no to hoarding;
no to hurrying;
no to spontaneously reacting;
no to violence;
no to abusing;
no to anesthetizing.

Learn the way of yes,
and the way of no
will follow close behind.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


May Our Prayers Rise to Meet You

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Our prayers rise on your behalf,
lifting you into the presence
of the Great Physician:

Behold your precious child, O God;
one created in your image
and filled with your reflection.

Grant that the medical team
may continue to act with wisdom,
compassion, and understanding,
so that the journey along the
road to recovery may be
bearable and dotted
with respites and oases
giving breathing room.

Grant an awakening each day
with enough courage
to climb out of bed,
enough strength
to shuffle forward,
and enough hope
to lift eyes to the rising sun.

Grant that caretakers and family
may discern when to push
and when to hold,
when to cry
and when to laugh,
when to speak
and when to sit in silence.

These and all prayers we waft
in the name of him whose robe hem
sparkled with life itself,
Jesus the Christ. Amen.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins


Commitment

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Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

 

    I’d offer you a fluffy basketful
   of thoughts and prayers,
  but I’m pretty sure
 you’ve had a bate
of shallow nothingness.

     I’d offer you
    unfettered second amendment
   and total gun confiscation,
  but I can tell
 we’ve all suffered enough
from artificial binary limitations.

     I’d offer you
    religious extremism
   and mental illness,
  but it seems like
 there’s already a glut
of selective blame and projection.

  In digging through
 the closet, in search
of something else to offer,

   there, at the back,
  I find an old table
 and lots of chairs,
all covered with cobwebs.

  Let’s take them out,
 dust them off,
and all pull up a seat.

   Let’s leave the bank accounts
  and the campaign contributions
 at home,
and have a genuine discussion

     about who needs what
    and how to make changes
   that’ll significantly slow down
  the filling up of cemeteries
 with the bullet-riddled bodies
of our loved ones.

    Let’s let everyone
   have a say,
  and then commit ourselves
 to making this a safer place
to live together.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Foundations

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More than a dozen years ago, as a friend’s dad faced chemotherapy, I envisioned and wrote about this scene:

 

I see him standing
on a stormy beach.
It is a place
he’s been before.

The waves are tall,
strong, and fast.
Sand is washing out
from under his feet.
Anxiety is, understandably,
rising with the tide.

I also see a strong,
enormous hand scooping him up
and holding him safely.

Where the receding sand
washed away,
large foundation stones
are moved into place.

The cornerstone has
a familiar look and scent;
the look of compassion
and the scent of love.

When the foundation is secure,
the protective hand sets him
back down onto the rocks.

May Christ be for you all,
and may he give you each
the hope, strength,
and courage to be
for one another,
pillars of hope and
foundations of comfort
during the raging storm
of chemotherapy.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Spoken Hearts

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Those who are
 vocabulary-challenged,
  and/or overcome by fear,
  often feel forced
 to abandon oral communication
in favor of violence;

the bravest, or perhaps
 the most desperate,
perpetrate physical aggression;

those with lesser gumption
 often assault language itself,
  waging battle against long-held meaning,
 gas-lighting society
into lexical confusion.

The rest of us
 are then tasked
  to hold firm
   to the tension
    between conflict
     forced upon us,
    and the eternal possibility
   of language,
  refusing to abandon
 the common ground
of our shared meanings.

In the end,
 war’s horror cannot
  stand on its own;
  and words, with their
 community interpretations,
will win,

because our common story
 outlives every other blitzkrieg,
  and love’s vocal evocation
 eventually woos
even frozen, trembling hearts.

          And now faith, hope, 
          and love abide, these three; 
          and the greatest of these is love. 
          (1 Corinthians 13:13)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Yet

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So many choices we have 
for what might be God’s utterance, 
when all seems done and 
the only thing left to say – 
the only thing allowed 
to be said – is a single word.

Powerful and compassionate verbs 
come to mind, as do 
unique and tender nouns, 
or maybe adjectives, 
or some other eloquent string 
of letters and syllables 
possessing unmatched beauty.

Even so, I know 
the word is “Yet.”

Yet, in its not-quite, 
still-to-come sense, 
holding out possibility 
in the presence of nothingness, 
or even in the face 
of every imaginable oppositeness.

Yet, in its 
“You’ve blazed a long trail 
in the opposite direction 
from where you need to be, 
and missed what’s been 
in front of your face all along, 
so turn around.” sense.

God’s word is “Yet.” 
I’m still trying 
to get used to it.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Here We Are

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I wanted my words
to make a difference;
not just the words
that leaked out of my mouth
in the heat of the moment,

but the words that seeped
out of my veins, carrying parts
of me from the deepest places
I’ve yet to plumb,

when your pain stabbed me
with the dull side of its blade,
its razor edge sunk
to the hilt in your heart.

I wanted my blood
to make a difference;
but it didn’t.

At least, it didn’t effect
the wispy dream of reconciliation
I constructed with letters,
punctuation, and space —
lots of space.

So, here we are,
on the far side of words —
on the dried side of blood —
and the wet side of tears;

still groping for the edge
of the grave,
still hoping for breath
not squeezed tight
by pain and rejection.

Here we are.

Here we are.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Siblings

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“Justice and peace
will kiss each other."
- Psalm 85:10

Justice and Peace embrace
in a warm hug and
double-cheek kiss

because they’re long-lost siblings,
separated soon after birth
by cultures, societies, nations,
and people who cannot see
and believe God’s generosity
and extravagance;

a blind disbelieving which tilts
the world toward selfishness,
greed, anxiety, and fear.

In the tension of such shrinking,
their (J’s & P’s) mother
had to ship them off
to separate family members
to be raised, while she
continually cleans up the messes
and patches the rent fabric
in societies that
tiny-hearted people create.

At least, that’s
the story I’m dreaming.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins