Respecting the awesome power of words!

despair

One Foot

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Shadows cast themselves
across the path,
entirely convinced
they are chains,
if not barbed wire,
fully capable
of strangling all movement
in any direction.

But I, vessel
of light and dark,
fire and ice,
have burst
across their boundaries
time and again,
brimming with hope
in a sea of despair,

not because
of who I am,
but because
of what love’s done;
not because
of what I’ve done,
but because
of who grace is.

Let us,
both you and I,
break into
an all-out sprint,
flinging ourselves across
these penumbral barriers
like Olympians
at the finish line,
leaning into
and breaking the tape
of victory’s wreath.

This is the courage
by which we 
who’ve plumbed
the depths of despair
keep putting one foot
in front of the other,

because our deeps
keep telling us
there’s not only light
beyond the valley
of the shadow of darkness,
but life
in its richest manifestation.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

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Three Days

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Or is it forever?

Since creation’s dawning,
dirt — humus —
has absorbed whatever liquid
gravity pulls toward earth’s core.

Grief trickling from all eyes;
brow-sweat of every effort;
life-source of each animal;
all soaked into the soil
as thirsty sponge
drawing all toward the center.

Gethsemane could be
no exception.

Anxiety of relational rending;
exertion of mortal desire;
arterial drip of ethereal hope;
all lay the groundwork
for betrayal, struggle,
and surrender.

Then there followed
three days of hell.

They stare at the ground,
waiting for creation
to happen all over again;

all senses and emotions
begging for dirt to be shaped
and breathed into once more;
afraid that it won’t,
yet scared to death that it will;

and the trinity of human desire
saturates the ground
over and over and over again:
tears, sweat, and blood.

Luke 22:44
In his anguish 
he prayed more earnestly, 
and his sweat became 
like great drops of blood 
falling down on the ground.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Unholy Week

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The adventuresome among us
would like to take a zip line
from the Triumphal Entry,
or maybe even from all the way back
at the mount of Transfiguration,
to the empty tomb.

The more acrophobic among us
would prefer an enclosed cable car
for the quick and easy journey.

But there is no such shortcut.

Lent is a journey we make,
year after year, not because
it’s fun or enjoyable,
or even because we want to,
but because we understand
that it’s the only way;

the only way to find ourselves
on the far side of crucifixion,
in the garden, staring
at the rolled-away stone
and the empty tomb,
incredulous as much because
of Jesus’ resurrection as because
we’ve been forgiven and freed.

Lent is the place where we go
to die, because we feel,
deep in our innards,
that dying is the only path
to being raised to new life.

Lent is the place and the time
when we prepare ourselves
to admit that we are not only
among the Unholy Week palm-wavers
shouting, “Ho-she-annah!
Save us NOW!”
but also among the angry crowd
shouting, “Crucify him!”

Lent is the journey.
Holy Week is upon us.
Now is the time.
Let us dare to claim
its courage.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Fragmented

IMG_4208Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

 

   I grew up mostly with
   a staunchly convinced
   intellectual faith
   until the day an inability
   to wrap my brain around
   the death of my mother
   cracked my hard head
   into fragments.

  My heart caught all the pieces,
  as they tumbled down,
  and tenderly held them
  until they could be reassembled.

 Now, I spend my days sharing
 stories of crumbled dreams
 that have been resurrected
 into pictures of hope;
 images we never
 could have fathomed
 with our solidified minds
 and plans alone.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Prayer

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    As I watched video from a group
   of people offering a vitriolic prayer
  for violent success in their
imminent encounter with others
  who were identified as different,
   I contemplated the definition
    and purpose of such supplication.

  Perhaps the only thing we can say
 for certain about prayer is that
it is a petition offered on a level
 other than the realm
  in which we physically function.

  It can be a request for self-validation,
a plea for deliverance,
  or many things in-between.

  It might be offered
to the creator of the universe,
a deity of our own construction,
  or an unknown entity.

   We all do it, and probably
  more often than we realize;
sometimes with prescribed
  forms of hope, and other times
   with generic invocations of desperation.

To say that ours have been answered
is to lay claim to their recipient’s legitimacy.

  It seems to me that the genuine mettle
of our god surfaces, however,
not when results coincide
  with our requests, but when they don’t.

  Who and where is your god
when your petitions disappear
  into the abyss of the unrequited?

  There, in the vulnerable nakedness
of “No.” or “Not yet.”,
there remains the possibility
  of divine presence or absence.

    If you find yourself,
   in the deepest darkness,
  convinced that you’re walking alone,
you might want to consider
a different way of sensing,
  an alternate trajectory
   for your pleas and praise,
    or both.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Follow Me

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There is no cable-car
to whisk us from
the boothless peak
of Moses, Elijah, Jesus,
and the three disciples 
to a Cadbury confectioned
empty tomb;

no Platform 9 ¾  
into which
we can plunge headlong
and suddenly find ourselves
transported to peaceful bliss.

There is only Lenten exodus;
forty days,
that might as well be 40 years,
through which we slog,
breathless and arrhythmic,
trembling yet driven
by a force planted at birth.

Let our hope for Easter’s arrival
be more than a vacuous promise
from they-sayers,
or a mainline injection
from anesthetizers,
or a little more icing on the cake
from already-made-its,
or a fairy-tale rescue
from pie-in-the-skyers.

Let us dare to descend
from the mountain
with the transfigured
and enfleshed one
into the valleys of the shadow
of hell in real people’s lives —
including our own —
and risk whoever
we think we are and even
who we really are
for the sake
of other human beings.

Let us do it, not because
they look like us,
   think like us,
      vote like us,
         speak like us,
            live like us,
               or pray like us.

Let us do it because
we’re all created
in the image of God;

because risking ourselves
for one another
is what we’re here for;

because we feel,
in the deeps of our soul,
the kin-dom Jesus lived
and to which he gave birth.

Let us do it because
we know we must find ways
to keep ourselves
in this, together,
or we will find ourselves
out if it, apart.

The only path
that leads to resurrection
takes us through
the purple haze of pain,
leads us in
the dance of suffering,
nails us to the tree of unliving.

The empty tomb
cannot be reached
unless we dare
to bare ourselves
to rigor mortis’ relentless march,
before the rising sun
of grace’s throne.

Let us dare to descend
into the entombing pits
of the grief, pain,
and suffering
by which we are surrounded,
hoping against hope
that unconditional love
can and will easter us all.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Blood Ash

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I didn’t want to say
the words this year.

“You are dust, and
to dust you shall return.”
kept asking
to be transposed
with something more honest,
like, “You were
in high school this morning,
future slowly unfolding;
but now your blood
is pooled on the ground,
your organs motionless,
your body lifeless,
your family screaming
a caustic cocktail
of rage and grief,
cameras intruding
like uninhibited perverts.”

How dare we regurgitate
a vacuous litany
propped up on
flimsy thoughts and prayers!

If we can’t be honest,
and say we’re not willing
to change anything
to slow the parade
of body bags,
then we need
to just keep our
damn mouths shut,
hunkered down
behind the walls
of our callous indifference.

Who will compose
a liturgy of lament?

Who will sit in this bend
of hell’s river,
sieve net in hand,
scooping the shrapnel-torn fragments
of hope as they drift
toward the abyss?

Answer me!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Reflexive

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(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)

 

"My sons and daughters,
why have you forsaken them?
Why are you so far from responding
to the their cries and groanings?

They beseech you in daylight,
wailing at the wall you’ve constructed
to separate their lives
from your comfort and security.

By night, their pleas waft
on smoldering embers
of their deconstruction."

The victors have constructed
a lovely narrative of deliverance;
their cry, God’s response;
like a sacred vending machine,
fed with the coin of deserving.

But what of those who are judged
to be subpar, those whose DNA,
language, or faith heritage
come from beyond
the 23&me dream package?

What of those who showed up
for work or school or worship,
oblivious to the call to pack heat
for self-preservation;
those who trusted that
the least of these, the lambs,
would be protected
by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds?

They counted on us to carry them;
to be there, not just in the delivery room,
but at the grocery store checkout,
the public library, the classroom,
the youth group meeting, the job fair.

Is our absence because
we don’t really care, or because
we’re actually the carnivores
circling ‘round them?

Their tongues glue to the roof
of their mouths, like jerky
dried for consumption,
salted with the tears of their anguish.

Their skin taut, revealing
a cadaverous collection of bones.

The coyotes circle,
yipping and nipping,
casting lots for what little remains.

The dream we sold them
promised they’d have a shot;
guaranteed dignity, respect,
even opportunity;
but the fine print and disclaimer
excluded them for myriad reasons,
mostly because we feared
that including them
would cost us too much.

We are slow to catch on, O Lord;
blind and deaf and too scared
to realize that tossing them
to the curb is infinitely more costly
than we ever dreamed,
because it has cost us our very souls.

Is there still time, still hope,
still opportunity to pull
more chairs ‘round the table?

If we feed those who’ve been starved,
welcome those who’ve been exiled,
humble ourselves before you and pray,
will you make your light shine 
upon us all, once again?

We wrap ourselves
with the sackcloth of confession,
and dust ourselves
with the ash of contrition,
O holy one, in hopes
that our forsaking
will not become our forsakenness.

Deliver us, we pray,
that we may live
to proclaim your story
to generations yet to come.

© 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

Prayer for the Holidays

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We pray, O God, for all those who enter the holiday season with a sense of overwhelming sadness: those whose sadness is brought on by heightened grief of the loss of a loved one; those who are sad because the holidays bring acute awareness of family or relational dysfunction or discord; those whose sadness comes from an inability to create the Norman Rockwell life that marketers and advertisers use to create a restless desire to purchase; those whose emotions are overcome by the incongruence of life in the first eleven months of the year, or the painful difference between the “haves” and the “have nots”; and those whose sadness comes from any other reason. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to be keenly aware and ready to open our ears and our hearts to those who are anything but happy for the holidays, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with the overwhelming task of rebuilding their homes and their lives: those whose neighborhoods have been ravaged by hurricane, flood, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, fire, or other disaster; those whose neighborhoods and lives have been turned to rubble by monster machinery of war. Help us, as your children, to have the grace to offer who we are and what we have been given to alleviate their suffering; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

We pray, O God, for all those whose holidays will be consumed with worries about health and wellness, for themselves or someone near and dear: those whose holiday appetites will be diminished by chemotherapy; those whose holiday schedules will be filled with radiation, physical therapy, or booked for surgery; those whose glasses will be raised, not to toast, but to chase down handfulls of pills which they hope will extend the quality and/or quantity of their days. Help us, O Lord, as your children, to support, by your grace, all efforts at health and healing, through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

We pray, O God, for all those who are leaders, in our congregation, our community, our state, our nation, and in the world: those who make decisions about the direction of our congregation’s ministry and mission; those who direct funding, support, programs and protection for this city, this county, this state, this nation, and for all nations. Give us the courage to demand and support leaders who are willing to risk and sacrifice as much for peace and justice as we ask our military to risk and sacrifice in support of war; through Jesus Christ our Lord…..

In the midst of this Advent season, O Lord, give us unfailing hope through your unimaginable promise; give us unquenchable joy through your gift of deliverance; through Jesus Christ our Lord….

Now hear us, O God, as we join our hearts and voices together to pray the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, as we pray together….. Our father……

© 2017 Todd Jenkins