Respecting the awesome power of words!

identity

Tanked

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I've had my life
         flash before my eyes
          on rare occasions.

Far more frequent
   and disturbing,
               though much more subtle,
                however, are the ways
                      life slowly evaporates,
                day by day,

like water in
       an open cistern
            in an arid clime.

I have this inner conviction
       that there are people somewhere,
  maybe even everywhere,
who are hoping
                   to have their souls quenched,
                     and our lives could be part
                      of what fills their cups,
                 if only we don’t
                           dry up and drift away.

Maybe it's just me,
        but silence, wilderness,
           reflection, and writing
                are what fuels the rain
                           that keeps my reservoir full,

and I need them all
       more often these days.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Savoring

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Sometimes I think
punctuation should be
electrically charged,
to shock us
into slowing down,
when we race through
its intersections
with nary a glance
to either side,
our toes firmly curled
‘round the accelerator.

I’d put a 12 volt battery
on my commas,
just to help you
ingest each phrase,
before wolfing down
the next one.

We read like
we’re starving for words,
but our true hunger
is for meaning,
which only appears
when we savor the text.

Mmmmmmmm!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Race

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    It's really just a contest
    to see who can arrive faster
    or with more support;

  so when we shoehorn it
  into biology, we're often
  escalating the competition,
  by declaring superiority
  of one group over another.

Suffixing imaginary genetic match
with "ism" isn't always about
old fashioned hate spewed
in the light of day.

  Sometimes it's much more subtle:
  an unspoken framework
  for socioeconomic and cultural mores
  tilting everything in favor
  of predetermined medalists.

    We don't have to ask for it
    or even recognize it
    to be complicit.

  All we have to do
  is deny or ignore it.

It will march on,
grinding unchosen ones
into dust, while anesthetizing
the rest to seductive
and powerful privilege.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Risking All

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Faith is a journey
across time, space, and life;
a continual lesson
that challenges us
to move from holding on
to letting go,
from the desperate air-clutch
of free-falling
to the peace and comfort
of being held.

It questions our assumptions
and the validity of our fears.

In a culture of consumption,
acquisition, and storage,
it dares us to experience
the transformative grace
of productivity, distribution,
and restoration.

It asks us to risk acting
with God’s generosity
in a world that refuses
to believe that anyone
cares about or knows us
any more or better
than we do ourselves.

It is in these selfless moments
and acts
that we catch joy-filled glimpses
of our true nature.

Faith is the gift
for which we are created,
the purpose of our existence,
the primal mystery
for which our deepest memory longs.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

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

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