Respecting the awesome power of words!

identity

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

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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

Float

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We yearn for heaven, and,
standing on this side
of the river, our soul
is enraptured by glimpses
we catch of the other shore.

Still, we'll risk wading
in the shallows,
rehearsing our swim
whenever courage is flush,
carefully calculating trajectory
based on the strength
of our supposed morality,
completely forgetting
that floating is the way across.

Letting go, instead
of holding on;
this is the way
to traverse the river. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


 

 


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