Respecting the awesome power of words!

generosity

No Pockets in a Shroud

IMG_5063Photo by Melinda Dukes

 

By the time
  your garb is a shroud,
    your final wardrobe,
      if not your final answer,
      the cargo pants,
    with all their
  treasure-holding capacity,
will be long gone.

Neither the gold bullion
  nor any other
    gaudy bling
  will have a resting place
in your great beyond.

The only thing
  you can fill
    are the pockets
  of hearts,
yours and others’.

Pour into them memories
of practicing the three
 most valuable gifts
of Life:

Loving
  Listening
Laughing

Invest in this trio
  every chance you get,
  and the whole world
 will benefit greatly.

You’re part
  of the whole world,
so you’ll also be richer.    

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Abiding Love

The story of my Malawi-born son, Patrick, was a key part of yesterday’s sermon, titled, “Abiding Love.” Here are a few pictures of Patrick. At the bottom, you’ll find a link to the sermon.

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The sermon link:


Exorcism

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It seems to me that
  the evil of possessions —
    whether it be money, property,
    power, privilege, or something else — 
    is not that we own them,
    but that in the very act
  of our ownership,
two subliminal things happen:

(1) our ownership,
  when reflected
    in the public sphere,
  tends to generate a sense of scarcity,
rather than abundance; and

  (2) our possessions, then,
  become our possessors.

That is how the appearance
  of even one or two human creatures
    (Yeah, we have a way
    of dehumanizing them,
  don’t we?)
can trigger a full-scale anxiety attack.

That’s when our possessing possessions
  begin to whisper to us,
    “You know, we’re not unlimited,
    and if you start sharing us,
    before you know it,
    the tables will be flipped —
    you never know who’ll overturn them —
    and you’ll become
    the vile creature yourself;
  and you know no one will share
any of us with you, then.”

  Sneaky little twits, aren’t they?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Full Flow

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Greed is total surrender
to the fear that,
despite today’s sufficiency,
tomorrow will leave us resourceless;
and therefore,
too much is never enough.

It’s a frenetic piling-on
creating utter breathlessness.

We are (meaning “I am,
and I invite you
to confess your complicity.”)
slow to recognize
that the ability
to tightly hold things
with our tiny hands and
the small part
of our mind and soul
that value such grasping,
is the greatest impediment
to accepting all that for which
God has created us.

Hope is the antidote,
as holy respiration,
allowing us to breathe
deeply and slowly,
palms upturned and open,
so that more of who we’re
meant to be can settle on us,
even wash over us.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Anyone

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And a voice thundered
from the clouds —
or was it a whisper in the dark —
or maybe both,

     “I love you, 
     each and every one of you, 
     so much that I refuse 
     to let anything 
     stand between us. 

    Even if you are so disbelieving 
    of this love and so afraid 
    of its unconditionality 

   that you kill the very flesh 
   of mine that I sent 
   to reveal it, 

  I will not give up on you, 
  but will keep pouring grace 
  like an everflowing stream. 

 It will flow through, around, 
 and into every crevice 
 of your life, whether 
 you’re paying attention or not, 
 until one day, you finally 
 give up on all the lesser gods 
 of competition, comparison, 
 amassing, distancing, 
 fortressing, and separation.”

“This is how much God loved the world: 
He gave his Son, his one and only Son. 
And this is why: so that no one 
need be destroyed; 
by believing in him, 
anyone can have 
a whole and lasting life.”
John 3:16 (MSG)

© 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

 


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

 


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

Borrowed Ears

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(a preacher’s dream/hope for a new year)

 

Some folks are great
at telling stories
with their mouths.

Theirs are the most detailed
and most accurate.

They are also the longest
and often the most boring,
stumbling and fumbling
over facts irrelevant
to both the point of the story
and their listeners.

Other people are great
at regaling you
with their own ears,
keenly aware of how
their tales make them appear
 in the eyes of their audience.

Whatever else you’ve learned
when they are finished,
you now see them
in a more ethereal light.

Help me, O Lord, learn how
to unfold narratives
using borrowed ears,
so my listeners hear,
not me or
my most presentable self
or their pretend selves,
but their deepest, richest selves
in the story.

Even more, let their ears
tell me how to verbally reveal
glimpses of grace,
calling us all to a hope
that is deeper, broader,
more connective,
and more accessible
than before vocal chords strummed
and ear drums beat
in synchronized rhythm.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Holidays

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The holidays are open season
on economic greed;
no bag limits,
and no limitations
on baiting.

If you venture out
(literally or virtually),
you're fair game,
and the gifts of family
and presence
may be threatened
by the marketing of presents.

To keep your perspective:
hug, listen to,
and spend time with
those who matter;

if you buy something,
do it by choice,
not because
of seasonal expectation;

buy local, instead
of feeding the corporate beast,
and find a way
to shop on any day
but Thanksgiving
or Black Friday.

That is all.
Carry on!

© 2017 Todd Jenkins