Respecting the awesome power of words!

identity

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

 


Poet

IMG_9436Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

To borrow a book title from one of my seminary professors, 
Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet.

space-maker, mold-breaker, heart-shaker…

thought-drifter, shape-shifter, dream-sifter…

bell-ringer, tear-bringer, sweat-wringer…

trip-booker, fresh-looker, love-cooker…

beast-tamer, peace-framer, grace-namer…

risk-taker, earth-quaker, hope-baker…

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


Counting

 

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Yes, we feel numbers
being flung at us
from the budget,
as well as the calendar,
and the clock,
like the daggers
from a stage act,
and we swear we've never
seen the blindfolded wielder before.

But while we're bobbing and weaving,
clinging to the hope that
we'll make it to next year
and beyond with a modicum
of courage, sanity, and purpose,
I have a few
molasses-freezing questions;
ones that might unpack
a dream we don't remember.

They seem to me to be
the kind of questions
that our revered institutions
must face in this
particular time and place:

What if we found out
that the thing we financially
couldn't afford to do
was the very thing
we organizationally and existentially
couldn't afford not to do?

To put it another way:
Which costs matter most,
and how will we count them?
What risks must we take
in order to face
the future with integrity?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

They

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They demanded and
even forced your labor,
offering no or little wages.

Silly me; I assured myself
I was doing comparatively well,
and somebody had
to be at the bottom,
mostly glad it wasn't me.

They took your dignity,
with images and cultural narratives
painting you as lesser,
or airbrushing you out
of the picture altogether.

Foolish me; I looked
in the mirror and saw
the right shade and shape,
assuming I still had
shreds of my own remaining.

They kicked you out
by banning and deportation,
as if culture, language, and religion
were legitimate wedges.

Trembling me; I fell
for scapegoating, ignoring
the malignancy
of systemic dis-ease.

They broke your spirit,
kicking you in the gut
with insufficient opportunities,
boot on your throat
with charges of laziness.

Ignorant me; I thought
I could prop mine up
with consumption and dogged pursuit,
not of my dreams, but
of what they told me to desire.

They're here
to steal your soul,
and it slices through my own,
clearly awakening me
to our eternal tether.

Now, I realize I've been
a part of "they" all along,
with my blind eye,
my silence, my privilege,
my vested interest votes.

Maybe we can't go back,
but I know that,
wherever we must go from here,
it will have to be together.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Change of Heart

war memorial

 

“Give us something to cheer about!”, the crowd cajoles. “We are in need of hosanna –  of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving!”

“Look what I have for you.” the voice trembles at first, then crescendos, “I have attacked an enemy with brute military might!”

“Is there gore, and blood? Can we do a victory dance?”

“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be gathered!”

“Let the banshee cry! Let reveling be unleashed!”

“But earlier in the week you had a different master; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”

“His ways are arduous, expecting our abundance to feed the hungry, calling us to love our enemies, asking difficult questions of our choices and allegiance. Who knew being neighbors would be so complicated?!”

“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All empire asks is your unquestioned allegiance, your willingness to join and support the force, and a few other minor details in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”

“We are in!”

“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”

“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”

“And by that, you mean?…”

The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch! Ready, aim, fire!”

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Building

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That building we call
church isn't really a church.

It only becomes church
when people show up
to make church;

when people use it
to be and become church.

What difference would it make
for the community
if we, on the inside,
not only understood that,
but lived it more intentionally
on the outside?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Looming

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Photo by Anne Shurley



The world is full
of three kinds of people:

[1] The one man (Yeah,
it’s most certainly a male.)
who's more convinced
than anyone else that
all of the privilege
and power he wields
is rightfully his, and his alone.

[2] The yet-to-be-jaded children
whose bones have not
developed a single sliver
of brittle entitlement.

[3] All the rest, whose worldview
lies somewhere on the spectrum
between the other two;

a perch that’s narrower
than we might imagine,
and heavily tilted toward
our own experiences.

We are all a lot closer
to one another than we imagine;
our common humanity
capable of weaving unbreakable
bonds of hope.

Our stories, the loom upon
which the warp and weft
of this tapestry are created.
Are we ready to listen?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Somebody Else’s Babies

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It's a convenient way
to distance ourselves
from both blame and responsibility;

"Somebody else"
is a sly way of saying,
"Don't look at me!"
But it actually makes me
want to stare; to stare and ask,
"Just who do we think we aren't?"

No matter how many barriers
with which we desperately
surround ourselves –
racial, economic, national, religious –
our shared DNA
of biology and spirituality
denies every construct of "other."

If we aren't our sister's keeper,
whatever else we're keeping
isn't worth it.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Make Believe

K Cox 20Photo by Kendall Cox

John 2:24-25 But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Pretending takes
a tremendous amount
of focus and energy.
That's why children are
so adept at it.

I don't think we ever lose
the fuel for imagination.
Instead, I think we use it up
in unnecessary and
unhelpful places in our lives.

We spend so much creative capital
on a persona we either
want to convey, or think
others want us to be,
that there's no
imaginative fuel left.

When we learn to be and
be comfortable with
who we really are,
we will have much more
passion from which
our creative souls can emerge.

We will also have
a much keener awareness
of the true and false
selves revealed in others.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Past

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"Put the past behind you."
he said, so matter-of-factly
you'd think it was
as easy as rinsing scraps
of scrambled egg
off your breakfast plate.

I've come, not just to believe,
but to feel in my marrow,
that our past, however different
from what we hoped
or who we think we are currently,
is the DNA through which we exist.

And the pull of life and
breath itself are toward
an integration into a now
that owns the past
rather than being owned by it,

and a future that frames
both past and present
as path toward a tomorrow
in which who we've been
and who we are
are not only incapable
of thwarting our created purpose,

but are being transformed
into the very rails of hope
on which we ride.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins