Respecting the awesome power of words!

grace

Table Talk

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Those who prey upon our angst,
peddling patriotism and nationalism
beneath a thick veneer of anxiety,
glossed-over with a heavy coat
of exceptionalism, do not want us
to pray in the name of the Nazareth one;

at least not to pray
with the honesty and
depth he did.

They do not want us to read
the gospels with open eyes;

at least not to read
them with hearts peeled wide,
so that the ones he welcomed,
the ones he celebrated,
the ones he dined with,
the ones he fed, healed,
and lifted up will be given
a seat at the table.

Fear, and his cousin, Scarcity,
have constructed a tiny world
whose table has a limited,
manageable number of chairs.

These two cannot imagine
the magnanimity
of Abundance's story.

Their notion of Grace
is tightly throttled,
so it applies only
to a chosen few who
deserve and/or have earned it;
which, if you consider the meaning,
has nothing to do with Grace at all.

We must not be deceived,
however, into patting ourselves
on the back for recognizing
her face in a few other places,
for that is but another form
of competition and comparison.

She shows up every day,
not so much incognito,
as just plain unrecognized,
because we all have scars
on the retina of our narratives
blinding us to her presence.

When we pour our hopes and
dreams into the same story,
we will begin, together,
to help one another
more clearly see out of
and into our shadowed lives.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Gospel

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We live and breathe, O God,
in a world increasingly beholden,
not to the gospels of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John,
but rather to the gospels of division,
fear, hatred, and violence.

Remind us today, and each day
of our earthly sojourn,
that you did not create us
for such divisive, loveless,
hopeless, and destructive purposes.

Give us courage to speak
your truth to privilege and power –
the privilege and power
we've been granted,
the privilege and power
at the top of the constitutional
and governmental food chain,
and all privilege and power in-between.

Give us compassion to feel
the anxiety and hurt rising up
from those who regularly find themselves
at the short end of the stick
and the end of the line,
with targets on their backs,
because of the practice of their faith,
the color of their skin,
the nation of their birth, or
the configuration of their chromosomes.

Give us wisdom to recognize
the greed and indifference
that turn a blind eye
for profit's sake.

Give us integrity to live into
our created purpose,
so we may speak justice,
walk humility, and breathe hope.

As followers of the resurrected one,
we are called to be his voice,
his hands, his feet.

Show us how to live and love,
so we and our broken world
can find ourselves
pieced together by and
mortared with grace.

So let it be spoken,
so let it be lived,
so let it be done.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Bated Breath

Carie Turner

Photo by Carie Rickenbrode Turner

 

(In our culture, these three – institution, religion, and faith – are formed into an awkward trinity. How do we see this three-legged monstrosity functioning in the world today?)

 

Every organization sees 
itself as institutional.

Every house of worship sees 
itself as religious.  

Every generation of faithers – 
those who take comfort 
beneath the banner of faith – 
sees itself as faithful. 

The age-old question 
of existential purpose, 
however, is not about 
perpetuity, ritual, or practice, 
but surrender, connection, transformation. 

The question we need 
to ask ourselves 
is not, "How can we 
assure the continued existence 
of our institution, 
the ongoing practice 
of our religion, and 
the future exercise 
of our faith?" 

It is, instead these three:

"Is our institution secure enough 
and honest enough
to build upon the foundation 
of its past?" 

“Is our religion aware enough 
to distinguish between 
convention and tradition, 
jettisoning the former 
when it stands in the way 
of giving breath and life 
to the latter?"

"Is our faith courageous enough 
to allow us to surrender 
our ties to empire, economy, and privilege, 
in order to be shaped into agents 
of hope for all creation?" 

The world waits 
for our answers 
with bated breath. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Holy Warriors

lee l mckinney 06Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Humans of one religion
killing humans of another,
solely because of their faith,
is nothing less than absurd.

Does it happen?
Not nearly as much
as the media would
have us believe.

Not that killing is fabricated;
but that religion, as a driving force
for death, is a red herring. 

To be sure, there are people
all over the world, every day,
who kill one another;
but faith’s practice is rarely,
if ever, the culprit.

In fact, it is the confusion and blurring
of politics, ideology, and economics
with religion that becomes a flimsy excuse
for disregarding human life;

primarily, it is the attempt to sanctify
any other egotistical, violent, social construct
by overlaying the framework of religion.

Holy warriors, be they Christian,
Jewish, Muslim, or other
(and there are plenty to go around),
are RINO: Religious In Name Only.

They have stolen their parents’ car
and run off on a killing spree,
but a religious bumper sticker
does not justify their malice.

People who tell you differently
bang the drum of fear and ignorance,
hoping you’ll fall into lock-step,
as the troops parade before lesser gods.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Unfolding

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Even the vaguest remembrance 
of grace, now only barely able 
to rouse the olfactories, 
laid in balance against 
all the fear and scarcity 
the armies, enemies, and economies 
of the world can muster, 
still tilts the scales 
so much in hope's favor 
that the negativities fly away 
like dry chaff in the breeze. 

Do you feel the gentle wind; 
the sacred inspiration? 

Remember how and when 
sacramental aroma 
once filled your nostrils 
with love so powerful 
you could taste it? 

This is grace. 
All you need to start with 
is breath; deep, slow breath. 
The rest will unfold 
in your heart 
and overflow in your life. 

Let it go. 
Let it flow. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Death-Defying

GJK 36Photo by Gay Jenkins Howell

The truth of Adam and Eve,
a friend told me, is
"A fig leaf is no substitute
for a therapist."

So much here to feast on;
so much here to run from;
so much here too real to face,
yet too close to reject.

Let us dare to live and breathe
in a naked now, O holy one,
not as tawdry exploitation
of bodies as objects,

but as death-defying risk
of abandonment to no less
and no more than our light-reflecting
and shadow-casting selves;

for the truth of creation's story
cannot be told
without such revealing.

Let both our poetry
and our prose
stand and fall
as blood-pumping gamble
of allowing the narrative
of who we are
to pulse out of
our own woundedness,

for it is in and from
our stories that we'll live
and die and be resurrected,
not just in the end,
but also in the breath
of their telling.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Forgiveness Road

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One step at a time;
never leave out a step;
never skip ahead;
start over as often
as you can.

First, we must recognize
our need to be forgiven;
soul-searching honesty
about pain caused
to self and others.

Second, we must recognize
God's offer of forgiveness;
offered, not because
of who we are or
what we've accomplished,
but because of who God is.

Third, we must accept
that offer of forgiveness;
accept it deep
in our bones,
in deeper places than
we ever knew we had.

Fourth, we must embody
the gift of forgiveness,
in our walking,
in our talking,
in our seeing and hearing,
in our breathing.

Fifth, we must
live forgiveness forward,
offering it to others
as freely as we received it;
not because they've earned it,
but because neither of us can;
not because they deserve it,
but precisely because
none of us do. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Sprout

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Even and especially in the face
of the most pernicious division and
hatred that fear can muster,
hope is resurrected
in the strangest places.

Like clandestine roots
from a chopped-down tree,
lingering beneath the soil,
it pushes up shoot, bud, then blossom
in a spoke-like pattern;
each eruption signaling
an unabashed attempt
to raise another trunk.

Buzz them all down and,
in a week or so,
another generation rises up.
Dig up the runners near ground level,
and their deeper cousins will surface.

When observing the natural world,
it doesn’t take long
to see that betting against hope
is a losing proposition.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Beginning

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As finite beings immersed
in a three-dimensional chronology,
we know stories of the time
before we existed, we catch glimpses
of moments we're in, and
we are sometimes haunted
by the time when we will no longer be.

Mortality's question knocks regularly,
"When and how will I die?"

Instead of ruminating
on circumstances of our death,
what if we poured ourselves
into the questions of life?

*For whom will I have a chance
to breathe and speak love today?
*Where and when can I
reflect grace today?
*How can my modeling
of forgiveness tilt the world
toward hope today?

Answering these, and
questions like them,
will bring us to life
in the moment.

This is the promise
of resurrection
for and in the present.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Float

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We yearn for heaven, and,
standing on this side
of the river, our soul
is enraptured by glimpses
we catch of the other shore.

Still, we'll risk wading
in the shallows,
rehearsing our swim
whenever courage is flush,
carefully calculating trajectory
based on the strength
of our supposed morality,
completely forgetting
that floating is the way across.

Letting go, instead
of holding on;
this is the way
to traverse the river. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins