For a while you shared a lifetime; though it seems but a flash; and never enough; and always too soon; and too painful to bear. All of these are true. May your memories, and Keats and Oliver and all the poets whose pens were filled with the ink of their own painfully dripping blood, and the DNA shared with your kin — physical genes as well as spiritual ones — and the people who’ve been and are your neighbors through the years, all weave a comforting blanket of presence to brace your tired shoulders against the biting cold wind of the valley of the shadow of death. May you take one step at a time, one day at a time; and on the days when you can neither stand nor step, may you find sleep, if not dreams, beneath a warm quilt of hope. May there come a day when the light pushes the shadows back into the deep woods from whence you’ve journeyed for much longer than you dreamed possible. May you recognize home, once again; and may your breath be restored. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Randy Calvo
For the hearty souls, O God, who find the Depot Home away from home, and yet in no way home, we give you thanks and pray. For those who understand Matthew 20 far better than they wished, who line-up like cattle in the chute, or slaves on the block, striking a paradoxical pose of desperation and indifference, hoping against hope to find a generous master for a day, we offer prayer, knowing that it is but the beginning. Let us be emboldened, by the words and fire of our supplications, O Lord of labor, so we may recognize them as neighbors, aflame enough to challenge the systemic injustice driving their daily auction. Let us be courageous enough to see their families, dependent on their labor, and to understand their work is also something on which we, ourselves, are dependent. Whether they live around the corner or across the border, give us courage to enact love in tangible and nourishing ways. Let us skip the 23andme, practicing the radical hospitality of our spiritual genetics with these kinfolk of ours. Let us open God's storehouse. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
When the slice comes, it matters not whether you heard it coming. You bleed; sometimes through your veins; other times through your soul, and maybe both. Either way, you’re searching for something to make the pain go away; something to turn back the clock to how it used to be – how you’d hoped it would remain – if not forever, at least for a while longer; a long while. Here’s what I want you to do: find a large bowl; the deepest one you have. Peer into the bowl. You're going to need a bigger bowl. Place the cavernous bowl on the counter. Look at the floor around you. Go ahead and put the bowl on the floor. You cannot gather or assemble the necessary ingredients. You probably don't even have them all. Yet. Get out your measuring cups. Look at them. Measuring is mostly irrelevant. Put the measuring cups away. Remember the bowl? The one deeper and more expansive than you've ever seen? Some of the ingredients will never make it to the bowl. They'll end up being scattered all over the counter (Because, at first, you didn't want to put the bowl on the floor, did you?) and all over the floor; You can set the oven at any temperature you want. It will change from day to day, even hour to hour, to match the shifting flame of your emotions. Let the fire burn like it wants. Sing to the bowl; sad songs, angry songs, songs of thanksgiving, whatever music wells-up in you. Talk to the bowl; share memories, ask questions, demand answers, use whatever words you find bubbling up. Write the words, even and especially if it feels like you're scribbling in your own blood. Invite another person to come sit on the floor with you; someone who'll refrain from sweeping; someone with ears agape and mouth shut; someone who's not afraid of weeping. Stir everything that makes it into the bowl. Let it rise over night, night after night. Don't worry if, on some nights, it doesn't rise, or if the same thing is there, day after day, or if there are days when there's nothing there. Just stir, sing, talk, weep, scream, breathe, write. And listen. listen, even if it is only to silence. You'll figure out when it's time to put it in the oven by listening to your heart. If you put it in too soon, it's okay to take it back out and resume your stirring. When it finally comes out of the oven, taste it; sit quietly and savor it. You'll probably detect flavors you don't remember seeing in the bowl or scattered on the counter or floor. After you taste it, wrap the rest of it in your heart and carry it with you, wherever you go. In due time, you will feel others who need to taste it. Accept the invitation to their kitchen. Sit on the floor with them. Share the recipe. Give them time and space to stir, sing, weep, write, and bake their own grieving mess. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted…” Psalm 34:18 © 2017 Todd Jenkins
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
What did they do, on that first Jewish Sabbath following the Thursday of arrest and humiliation; following the Friday of trial and mocking and scourging and flesh-piercing? Promises for the third day were long-tossed out with the other rubbish, their possibility extinguished by the agonizing gore of public crucifixion. Perhaps that Saturday was one when sorrow's adrenaline gave out, leaving them motionless on the floor, dry tears invisibly streaming down the gullies grief had gouged in their cheeks. Maybe they drifted off into exhaustion disguised as sleep, only to bolt upright at random intervals, wishing for slumbering dreams of hope and waking nightmares of memory to exchange places. You would think, whatever else was done, said, and felt, they could easily be convinced that celestial bodies were frozen in the sky, if not backtracking. It appears as if rehearsing the pedantic ritual for burial and body preparation may have been their only respite, its numbing repetition requiring just enough mental and emotional capital to hypnotically rock them toward tomorrow. Will our Saturday ever end? © 2017 Todd Jenkins
The kiss of death (KOD) only cost 30 pieces of silver back in the day, but it was intimate. Today's KOD can be so impersonal, dropped from above, droned from afar. But let's be clear: these measurements we're kicking around come from the top of the heap – the green side of the grass. From below, the price is an altogether different unilateral; it is ultimate – not once-and-for-all, but once-and-nevermore. What do you suppose resurrection will look like now? John 11:50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed. (high priest Caiaphas) © 2017 Todd Jenkins
I've never known a leader who expects to be taken seriously, but not literally; someone who repeatedly begs me to believe and trust him, while the words coming from his mouth are hyperbolic at best and blatant fantasies at worst. Usually, the only people who desire to match this description are poets and authors of children's books; those who dare us to aspire to more, by painting word-images that pull us toward a vision of grace. The key ingredient missing here, in this time and place, however, is hope. It is wholly AWOL. Without it, my imagination is being pulled into a vortex of fear. This is not a story I want to read, much less live. Stop the book, I want to get out. © 2017 Todd Jenkins
We are fast approaching a new and alternate abyss of American Exceptionalism, where any lie becomes acceptable, so long as it reinforces (or at least does not contradict) our fantasy of remaining at the top of the heap; where the underlying "except" is that everyone is uninvited except us and the people we've yet to fear or despise. We dare not look down at our feet or believe the screaming of our olfactory receptors. The pile on which we stand contains the rotting carcasses of all creation, consumed in the name of security and entertainment. Perhaps, most telling is the fantasy on which we're hell-bent; an altered reality – as we are wont to label it – in which everything is never enough and no one can be sufficiently vetted; an eerie vacuum of loneliness and trustlessness. We bow before the altar of consumption, offering a gift whose pricelessness is long-forgotten: our very selves. The (s)election of high priest for this cult is only with regard to appearance. No matter which choice we make, what happens on the judgment seat behind the curtain in this profanity of profanities will not change. Hope whispers her sacred plea, "Speak now or forever forego peace." "Lift every voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the list'ning skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us; Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, Let us march on till victory is won." (James Weldon Johnson) © 2016 Todd Jenkins
Photo by Ashley Goad
This is what came to me, yesterday, rapid-fire. Thanks to voice-to-text technology, I was able to capture the muse without risk of life and limb. Or so it seems.
Lives of quiet desperation,
oblivious to separation,
pitting third tier hopes
against the world;
measuring the fears
multiplying through the years.
Never sure how much
the net below has shredded.
Riding anger’s empty wave
onto a rocky shore,
crashing, boardless, as the tide
goes out, to rise no more.
Beat down by ego’s fiery bluster;
candle moth above the flame,
risking all for one more chance.
Never saw this was a game;
helplessly folded into
a deck completely stacked.
Squeezed by edges of the corner
into which we’re backed.
Vacuumed into fading light,
desperately afraid of night,
Racing toward the cliff
How’d we fall so far
© 2016 Todd Jenkins