Respecting the awesome power of words!

grief

May You

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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

 

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Weeping

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While Ezra prayed and made confession, 
weeping and throwing himself down 
before the house of God, 
a very great assembly of men, 
women, and children gathered 
to him out of Israel; 
the people also wept bitterly. 
[Ezra 10:1]

In weeping, our hearts
are wrung out
of all that stands
between us and our true selves,
between us and our neighbors,
between us and God.

In every province, 
wherever the king’s command 
and his decree came, 
there was great mourning 
among the Jews, with fasting 
and weeping and lamenting, 
and most of them lay 
in sackcloth and ashes.
[Esther 4:3]

Our squeezed-out spirits
can then absorb the gifts
we need for the lives
to which we’ve been called.

Jesus began to weep.
[John 11:35]

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Selah

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As an acrostic of storms
accumulates on our news feeds,
their names aligned
like Beelzebub's old-school Rolodex,
we beseech you, O God
of wind and water,
to breathe a calming counter-wind
and send sponge-clouds
to hold the deluge,
so rain is more gently squeezed out
in manageable and absorbable amounts.

As the earth trembles to our south,
gaping wide to swallow portions
of Central American civilization,
we pray for a tangible presence
of your sacred tether, O God.

Give hope to those digging
through the rubble
in search of life.
With and in your strong
but tender hand of comfort,
O prayer-catcher,
gently hold the tears
of those buried in the grief
of loved ones lost.

The forests are ablaze, not
with the light of your glory,
O God, but with a consuming
fire of destruction.

You, who created winds
that can be whipped into storms,
we implore you
to breathe extinguishing spirits
and send blanketing rains
upon the woods and neighborhoods,
shielding firefighters
and all life in peril's path.

May our prayers have hands,
feet, wallets, and hearts
that know not national boundaries,
speaking, acting, giving,
and breaking for all, near and far,
who find themselves
battered and unmoored.

Let us refract your love, O Lord,
through the dispersive prism of grace,
that all may know your rainbow promise.

Wind and water, earth and fire,
all elements of creation's glory;
so let it be imagined;
so let it be intoned;
so let it become.
Selah, selah, selah.

© 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

Grief’s Recipe

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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

 


Pall

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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

 


Blanket

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Prayers surround you
like a generations-old blanket,
pieces of stories and times past
stitched together
with a myriad of emotions,
dusty with the scent
from faded memories
of many a stripe and ilk,
stuffed with down
from birds long-since
traversed Tennyson's bar.
May you find warmth, comfort,
and sufficient breath
for such a starless sky,
all gently pulling you
into dawns to come.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Scar

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We are a people of scars,
neither guaranteed protection
nor escape
from pain's slice and consequences.

  But we are also created
  for healing;
  not healing whose visibility
  or consequences vanish;

    people who are found
    by a forgiveness
    that debrides our wounds,
    rinsing away anger, malice,
    resentment, and vengeance,
    disinfecting them with grace,
    packing them with mercy;
    people whose flesh falls back together,
    not in seamless invisibility,
    but rough, bumpy reminders
    of our past;
    people who somehow
    find the courage to seek catharsis
    in our history's telling;

  people whose hearts
  are forever being pointed
  toward the true north of hope.

Yes, this is who we are;
not perfected but blemished,
not fearless but courageous,
not arrived but journeying;
journeying together.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Priesthood of All Believers

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When chaos,
disaster, disease,
and even death
invade others' lives,

our presence,
mostly in silence,
will mediate grace
much more wholly
than telling them
our comparative story.

The time for narrative connection
may come, but give us courage,
O God, to wait
until we're invited.

It won’t likely occur
until grief and agony
have held their sway,
and hope has wafted in
through a window partially cracked
by our steadfast,
listening presence.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Raised

rozsalinePainting by Rosalind Golden Saline

Surely light years beyond
wildest hopes and
deepest imaginations,
he is raised,
not just from the tomb,
but also from the debasing
of mocking, the torture
of scourging, and the excruciating
execution of crucifixion.

Was his appearance
nearly incognito because
of the impossibility of it all,
or because transcending death
alters persona far beyond
human fathomability?
Perhaps it was both.

His face, tilted skyward,
eyes closed,
no longer in agony,
now in serenity.

His skin at one
and the same time ashen,
yet fully thrushed with life;
its shading defies
ethnocentric limitations.

His lips, resting in a fashion
best-described as tranquility.
Completely antithetical
to terrestrial powers that sought
his demise via violence,
his presence exudes a gentleness
only love can elicit;

right hand lowered and open,
both revealing a lack
of animosity and weaponry,
and clearly displaying
still-fresh wounds,
beckoning us toward
our own deepest healing;

his left hand pointing heavenward,
living water flowing from it,
new life springing up
from a parched desert floor;
light bursting from above,
revealing creation’s eternally-held dream.

Last, but also perhaps first,
the robe;
swirling transfiguration's glow
with stone-rolling angel's ensemble;
but even those two foreshadowings
are inadequate descriptions
of its hope-infused cloud.

Sit with the elements;
letting life's river wash over you,
divine wind swirl your heart,
and corpus  of unconditional love
carry you into the grace
of each tomorrow's resurrection.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins