Respecting the awesome power of words!

identity

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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Church Whisperer?

zchurchwhisperer

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

zDBV

 

      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

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

As If

zasif

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

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

 


Empty and Broken

zempty&broken

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

 


Circumference

zcircumference

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

 


Bated Breath

Carie Turner

Photo by Carie Rickenbrode Turner

 

(In our culture, these three – institution, religion, and faith – are formed into an awkward trinity. How do we see this three-legged monstrosity functioning in the world today?)

 

Every organization sees 
itself as institutional.

Every house of worship sees 
itself as religious.  

Every generation of faithers – 
those who take comfort 
beneath the banner of faith – 
sees itself as faithful. 

The age-old question 
of existential purpose, 
however, is not about 
perpetuity, ritual, or practice, 
but surrender, connection, transformation. 

The question we need 
to ask ourselves 
is not, "How can we 
assure the continued existence 
of our institution, 
the ongoing practice 
of our religion, and 
the future exercise 
of our faith?" 

It is, instead these three:

"Is our institution secure enough 
and honest enough
to build upon the foundation 
of its past?" 

“Is our religion aware enough 
to distinguish between 
convention and tradition, 
jettisoning the former 
when it stands in the way 
of giving breath and life 
to the latter?"

"Is our faith courageous enough 
to allow us to surrender 
our ties to empire, economy, and privilege, 
in order to be shaped into agents 
of hope for all creation?" 

The world waits 
for our answers 
with bated breath. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Funny

IMG_0106

Mixing the entertainment business
with religious practice
is usually funny,
in more than one sense
of the word.

It's funny in the sense
that you can't predict
how the amalgam will be received –
whose message will excite the masses.

It's also funny because it's hard
to tell who's laughing with you,
who's laughing at you, and
who's laughing to keep from crying.

Many will be laughing.
That's about the only thing
that you can take to the bank,
which is really the bottom line
for this duo anyway.
Isn't it?

© 2017 Todd Jenkins