Respecting the awesome power of words!

healing

Indifference

JL Todd (2)Photo by Jo Lightner Todd

Often, the thing that kills us –
the thing that digs the hole
into which we fall,
and from which we are
incapable of self-extraction –

isn't the full-strength sulfuric acid
of hate thrown in our face,
but a slowly constructed ladder
of slights and judgments
raising another up high enough
to no longer be willing
to see and hear that our stories
all have the same origin
and will conclude
with the same destination.

It is indifference
that steals away the breath
once filling the air between us,
a liter at a time, until
we are rendered unconscious
by the divisive vacuum.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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Call of the Song

zcall of the song

 

A song we all know well
  called and left a message:
    I’m music, written from
      a particular place and time,
    intended to stir human souls
  to passion and magnanimity,
through both my tune and lyrics.

When I begin to fail at that task,
  as the cracks and limitations of my era’s
    sociocultural ignorance magnify,
      don’t set off smokescreens,
    dig your heels in blindly,
  or deify me, for fear of loss/change.

Instead, listen to one another’s
  story and experiences,
    together, creating a present and future
      out of which more hopeful tunes
    and lyrics can be
  given birth and live.

Remember, I’m here to serve
  at your collective pleasure,
    not to have you serve at mine.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Weeping

zweeping

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

Let Freedom Ring

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They didn’t and don’t put
their lives on the line
to save a flag or
to demand we all stand
or revere a song;

but to give citizens of their nation —
all citizens — the chance
to enjoy lives of dignity,
respect, and opportunity.

When forces within a national culture,
economy, and infrastructure
thwart such freedom for some,
pushing them to call attention
to such incongruity by the exercise
of a first amendment right,
it’s not flag or nation being disrespected,
but the notion that one experience
is the only one that’s normative.

Waving patriotism, nationalism,
or soldiers’ service and sacrifice
as objection to the objection,
are red herrings, as is the suggestion
that there are less offensive methods,
since acceptability is a big part
of what renders outcry ineffective.

Instead of attempting to  
to force all into lockstep,
may our discomfort drive us
toward the recognition
of systemic injustice,
and to a table where ears lean in
to understand, rather than recoil
to fashion argument and disagreement.

Dismissing and refusing to listen
to the stories of protesters
is the surest way to escalate
refraction of their experience
while delegitimizing their lives.

To object to dissent is to miss
the whole point of freedom.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


weR1

trails2

Throughout history, people
have cordoned themselves off
by self-identification in layers,
climbing and clamoring to stand
on top of something or someone –
anyone or anything – just as long
as they do not believe
they are at the bottom.

In so doing, the bodies beneath
their feet are eventually construed
to be less than human.

The hardest lesson of all,
and one that upends
the whole fragile pile,
unfolds when we wake up
and realize that dehumanizing itself
is what sentences dehumanizers
to their own judgment;

and those whose hope, 
no matter how fragile and
compressed by the vitriol,
has held through the storm,
are the only ones who can lift us
all toward the sacred purpose
of our shared humanity.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Life

zlife

    It is never really
    if the pain, loss, hurt,
    or grief come,
    but when.

  It is not just
  "What will you do?"
  or "Where will you turn?"
  but also, most significantly,
  "Who will you be?";

not just in it,
but also through it,
beyond it, and even
because of it.

  It's more than
  "How will it change you?";
  it's also "How will you offer
  others a chance to change?" 
  and even "How will you
  change the world?"

    Welcome to life,
    caterpillar.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Selah

zselah

 

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

Beat

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Why is grace so difficult
to accept unconditionally?

  Because we know, too well,
  the difference between
  who we are on the inside
  and the image we project
  for sociocultural, economic,
  and religious acceptance
  on the outside.

    Because our small worldview
    and our limited understanding
    of the universe's sacred narrative
    cause us to accept scarcity
    as more plausible than abundance.

  Because comparison and competition
  have been deeply ground
  into our psyches.

Without grace,
we are one slip-up,
one wrong turn,
one moment of exhaustion,
one hesitation,
one secret revealed,
from relegation to the heap
of the also ran and
the obviously unworthy.

With grace,
by grace,
through grace,
we are finally and fully free
to abandon ourselves
to the beating of hearts
and the breath of stories –
ours and everyone else's.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Fire on the Mountain

Joe Stephenson 65Photo by Owen Todd Jenkins
Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this 
great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 
(Exodus 3:3)

From the valley below,
fire could be clearly seen;
lighting up the overcast afternoon
like a great oil lamp.

Was smoke, however,
in short supply,
as this particular source
of combustion was beyond ordinary?
The storyteller leaves this detail
to our imaginations.

Moshe was so struck by its glow
that he soliloquied
like an actor in character,
declaring his intent to approach,
just in case the source
of the fire turned out
to be territorial.

That's when the voice thundered,
not so much objecting
to the trespass itself,
as requiring deep,
personal tactile engagement.

Barefoot and vulnerable,
the shepherd on the lam
risked responding,
to the point of objecting
to a return to the scene
of the crime, even if it was
on debatable grounds.

"Whom shall I say has sent me?"
Moshe inquired;
a perfectly valid question,
given the double-digits
of generations who had
crossed the bar since last
the Hebrew narrative
included a divine cameo.

"Is" came the reply,
or more specifically, "Am".
The verb of being,
existence,
presence.

And it is enough.
Enough for a returning bail-jumper.
Enough for a hungry prodigal.
Enough for you.
Enough for me.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Creeksong

zcreeksong

Let me be a creek,
O holy one,
meandering through the deep woods 
of creation like a lovestruck couple
on a spring picnic,

singing creeksong
for all who wander near,
smoothing over the jagged rocks
as the years roll on,

teeming underneath with life
for all, shallow in some places,
rapids or deep pools in other,

smooth as glass in places,
reflecting the sky's crystal blue
and cotton-white clouds
so we'll all remember
to look to the heavens
from whence our help comes.

Let me be a creek,
O holy one; a creek
for your everflowing love.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins