Respecting the awesome power of words!

identity

Glory

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What if glory
is the God-gap:
an overflowing,
nearly-overwhelming  presence
that results from a guilt-free,
jealously-free celebration
of the fundamental distinction
between God and the rest
of the universe?

What if God is glorified
when we rightly perceive
the relationship between
God and all else,
especially the relationship
between God and us?

To do so is to take absolute joy
in this great chasm
precisely because we understand
that it is neither
a measure of our failure,
nor an object to be desired,
but rather an appropriate space
in which God can be present
to, with, and for us.

What if glory
is God’s dance floor?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Be

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Esse quam videri –
 literally, “To be,
rather than to seem.”
is the North Carolina state motto.

It has also been translated,
“Be who you are.”

If ever there was
a “be and not just seem” one,
it was God-with-skin-on
from Nazareth,
whose parents named him “Jesus.”

I spent most
(okay, pretty much ALL)
of my first 30 years focused
on proving other people wrong.

That is, when someone said,
“You can’t/don’t know
how to do that.”
(because you’re left-handed,
too small/weak, young,
from a small town,
not educated enough, etc.),
I set out to prove them wrong.

Even though I became
quite adept at this,
one day, I realized
my life choices were based,
not on any inner sense
of purpose or drive,
but merely on competing
against the expectations of others.

I’ve spent the last 28+ years
learning to let go
of that need to prove
my enoughness to anyone,
including myself.

Wilderness, whether it’s mountains,
lakes, desert, or somewhere else,
is a place where the taunting voices
can most fully be shed,

giving me ears to hear
and heart to focus
on my own breath,

and helping me recognize
where and how my own worth
is validated, not in
the meeting or defeating
of others’ expectations,

but through the defining
and developing of self
in mutually healthful
service to the world.

Thanks be to God!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

I Remember Your Name

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Those who’ve loved and left
by way of death’s door
are not really lost.

I call to them,
call on them,
recall them
in so many ways.

The names of love
are like decorations
for the tree;

ones I’ve had
for years; ones
whose stories have
made me who I am.

If I leave them
in the attic
or the basement,
their memories will not
stay in the box.

They drift in and out
of moments and conversations,
deep and rich as ever;
never nameless,
no matter what,
even when I struggle
to not say them.

I remember your name,
and in its speaking,
who I’ve been
shapes both who I am
and who I will become.

I remember your name,
and as it’s vocalized,
life is breathed once more,
in me, through me,
beyond me.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

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

 


Church Whisperer?

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There’s a certain range
of sociocultural behavior
and interaction that’s healthy.
Venturing too far from it
risks isolation and estrangement.

Growl at or feel threatened by guests?
Bark at every unexpected sound,
cowering in fear behind
a facade of bravado,
biting even the hand
that feeds you
when you’re surprised?
Constantly and inappropriately
marking territory?

Three questions,
regularly whispered
on the linear plane,
help identify areas
for examination:
What are we (not) doing?
Why are we (not) doing it?
How’s that working out for us?

The foundational whispers,
however, are neither
horizontal, nor sounded
across human vocal chords;
but vertical, and received
into human hearts:

Why were you placed
into this time and space?
Toward what and whom
are you being called
by love and grace?

We are created, then,
less as church whisperers,
than those to and through whom
the divine whispers.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


DBV

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      Death by violence;
    it is the trademark
  of a culture predicated
on consumption as arrival
  and competition for survival.

      The socioeconomic sausage grinder
    uses people like inanimate ingredients
  in a secret family recipe,
where nothing matters
  but the finished product,
    and the only ones not
      on the menu are those
    who’ve schemed or entitled
  their way to a table for one.

      When you hear the engine groan
    for lack of fodder, and
  squeal for lack of lubricant,
be sure to check the list
  of ingredients needed
    to satisfy the beast.

      No matter the euphemism
    behind which it's cloaked,
  if what's really called for
are the bones and blood
  of human lives,
    maybe it's time to build
      a more just machine;

      time to confess
    that stockpiled weaponry,
  war’s machinery,
tilted and justified incarceration,
  and border-based enslavement
    aren’t really meant
      to keep us safe or
    help the weak defend
  and provide for themselves,
but to keep power mongers on top. 

      Maybe it’s time to take
    this kind of sausage
  off the menu, and
search our collective souls
  for more sustainable fare.

            © 2017 Todd Jenkins

weR1

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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

As If

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What's it like to have
a hurricane named after you;
your own moniker attached
to a high velocity wall
of hydro destruction?

Do you wish the random generator
of tropical storm names
had passed you by,
the same way
the lottery ticket gods
have done for generations
of desperate hopers?

Do you take it upon yourself
to stand up for those
in harm's way, as if
you've been singled out,
personally, to rail toward
the heavens with pleas
of mercy and deliverance,
willing their protection
with each breath you take?

Maybe, even when our name
hasn't been broadcast,
we can act and pray
as if it has, for no other reason
than the shared humanity
of our beating hearts.

Lord, send your angels…

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Creeksong

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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

 


Empty and Broken

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In a culture hell-bent on grasping,
patching, and covering up,
faith's call to empty ourselves
and embrace our brokenness
is arduous; but

as long as we are full –
of ourselves or our privilege
or anything else – and as long
as we pretend that we are flawless,
there is neither room nor path
for divine grace's infusion to us
and effusion from us.

Psalm 46:10's beginning statement
is often translated,
"Be still, and know
that I am God."
Its first Hebrew word, רָפָה (rapha)
can also be translated
"relax" or "let go".

Let go – empty yourself
of all you're trying to make
of yourself –  and know
that I am God.

We are never closer
to holy ground than when
we are standing
on common ground.

Being fully human is the result
of recognizing sparks
of both the self and the divine
in others, especially in those
we've been taught
to despise and devalue.

This may be the only
vantage point from which
we can truly ditch
all fear of scarcity,
all inflated pretense
of competitively-induced
self-worthiness and earning,

finally and fully relinquishing us all
to God's abundant mercy and grace.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins