Respecting the awesome power of words!

healing

Circumference

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Perhaps the human penchant
for scapegoating,
enemy-identifying, denial, and
refusal to accept responsibility,
would be a little less surprising
if we were willing and able
to admit the struggle between
good and evil going on
in each of our hearts
all day long and
most of the night.

The more and longer
we bifurcate reality,
conveniently hopping just over
the good/evil dividing line
each time we redraw it,
the deeper the chasm
of separation we dig.

If ever there was a time
for etching lines –
a season I cannot imagine –  
it is now long past.

Hope calls us to be
making circles, each one
more expansive that the last,
until all stories fit
within the circumference.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


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

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

 


Courageous

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The human mind has a great deal
   of difficulty recognizing more
      than one kind of courage.

Our mental faculties
   are more comfortable
      with a single dictionary entry.

But the heart, and especially
   the interaction of living
      a particular life, have ways
   of opening other windows.

The brain is best-suited
   for comprehending courage
      from life’s intersection
   with outward bodily harm,
inflicted by things like disease or war;

and we rightly laud heroes
   who've stared down organ failure,
      chemo or radiation,
   an enemy's barrel,
or similar physical threats.

Courage also wells-up
   from the burden society loads
      upon the backs of those
   whose misfortune it is
to not fit the mold.

This is the pressure
   generating more subtle weapons:
      epithetic daggers of hate,
   dipped in the cultural poison
of rejection, hurled
   into mold-broken hearts.

Overcoming these assaults
   may not leave limbs severed,
      bones shattered,
   or organs inoperable,
but finding and living grace
   with clandestinely-scarred psyches
      can be equally as courageous.

© 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

 


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

 


One and the Same Time

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By memory we define ourselves;
bits and pieces of days gone by,
fed by stored mental photographs,
watered by emotion's tears
of both sorrow and joy
at one and the same time.

Through memory we anchor ourselves
to pasts cringeworthy and exemplary
at one and the same time.

Growing memory, we construct ourselves
into observers of each present moment,
anchored by virtue's roots and
rising above villain's graves
at one and the same time.

In sleeping memory,
we dream ourselves into tomorrows,
slogging through valleys of despair
and wafting on currents of celestial breath
at one and the same time.

Searching for  memory,
we watch loved ones lose
bits and pieces of their story,
lamenting fragments
faded long-past sepia
and rejoicing in brief flashes
of love and cognizance
at one and the same time.

In memory we hallow special days,
honoring so many brave ones
who've sacrificed and pushing back
against the hell of war's existence
at one and the same time.

Resurrecting memory,
we weave a sacred response
to grace's unfettered gift,
lamenting all the times
it steadily swirls around us unnoticed
and praising Yahweh for the glimpses
convincing us to dive in headlong
at one and the same time.

By memory we were and
are and will continue to be held,
when we've forgotten all and
when we’ve remembered scarcely enough
at one and the same time.

Memory: our deepest curse
and richest blessing
at one and the same time.

© 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