Respecting the awesome power of words!

inspiration

Call of the Song

zcall of the song

 

A song we all know well
  called and left a message:
    I’m music, written from
      a particular place and time,
    intended to stir human souls
  to passion and magnanimity,
through both my tune and lyrics.

When I begin to fail at that task,
  as the cracks and limitations of my era’s
    sociocultural ignorance magnify,
      don’t set off smokescreens,
    dig your heels in blindly,
  or deify me, for fear of loss/change.

Instead, listen to one another’s
  story and experiences,
    together, creating a present and future
      out of which more hopeful tunes
    and lyrics can be
  given birth and live.

Remember, I’m here to serve
  at your collective pleasure,
    not to have you serve at mine.

© 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

 


Weeping

zweeping

While Ezra prayed and made confession, 
weeping and throwing himself down 
before the house of God, 
a very great assembly of men, 
women, and children gathered 
to him out of Israel; 
the people also wept bitterly. 
[Ezra 10:1]

In weeping, our hearts
are wrung out
of all that stands
between us and our true selves,
between us and our neighbors,
between us and God.

In every province, 
wherever the king’s command 
and his decree came, 
there was great mourning 
among the Jews, with fasting 
and weeping and lamenting, 
and most of them lay 
in sackcloth and ashes.
[Esther 4:3]

Our squeezed-out spirits
can then absorb the gifts
we need for the lives
to which we’ve been called.

Jesus began to weep.
[John 11:35]

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Sprout

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Even and especially in the face
of the most pernicious division and
hatred that fear can muster,
hope is resurrected
in the strangest places.

Like clandestine roots
from a chopped-down tree,
lingering beneath the soil,
it pushes up shoot, bud, then blossom
in a spoke-like pattern;
each eruption signaling
an unabashed attempt
to raise another trunk.

Buzz them all down and,
in a week or so,
another generation rises up.
Dig up the runners near ground level,
and their deeper cousins will surface.

When observing the natural world,
it doesn’t take long
to see that betting against hope
is a losing proposition.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


gOOD nEWS

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When the gospel no longer
sounds like good news,
maybe our measure
of what is good –
and the people for whom
it was intended –
has slipped a few
too many notches.

We are not called
to shoehorn the gospel
into our narratives
of comfort and security,
but to open our hearts and lives
to love's expansive reach.

We are made to fit love,
not the other way around.

Keep stretching.
It's reaching toward you now;
has been since
before your first breath;
will be forevermore.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Fire@50

IMG_9436Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

(A riff on Acts 2 & Numbers 11)
8.7.8.7 D


Numbers 11: 27And a young man ran and told Moses, 
“Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 
28And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, 
one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!”



Spirit, Spirit, wild-eyed wonder;
into room and hearts you rushed,
tongues of fire and claps of thunder;
mouths to ears your burning gushed.

Risen one ten days ascended;
dif'rence must be set aside;
call to hope freshly extended;
forgiveness freely applied.

Eldad, Medad break out speaking,
ut’ring truths as yet untold.
Call on Moses, "Stop the leaking;
they're too brazen, far too bold!"

Rules braided in hangman's tight noose,
keeping others in their place,
now untwisted, completely loose,
making room for gushing grace.

To be sure, and not be unfair,
faith soars high on earth's quaking,
mercy pours richly everywhere
with Spirit's new inbreaking.

Millennia have waxed and waned
since holy fire filled the air.
As Peter's tongue boldly explained,
ears of fire are everywhere!

Fill our spirits from your deep reach
with connection, love, and care;
give us hearts and voices to preach
grace’s story everywhere.

Give us, O torch sent wild and free,
strength to withstand all danger,
risking all we are and can be
welcoming knocking stranger.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Generosity

patrick 03
Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home, and ate their food with glad and generous hearts… (Acts 2:46)

 

This past Sunday’s sermon was from Acts 2:42-47. The sermon title was “Glad and Generous Hearts” (from 2:46). This week, after the sermon (of course!), I saw the sermon come to life.

Patrick (pictured above) is a 24 year old student in Malawi. He is studying to become a midwife, and dreams of opening an orphanage after he graduates, to care for the many parentless children in his country. Patrick is an orphan whose parents died years ago (dad in 1998, and mom in 2006). He is raising three younger siblings.

Here is a photo of his family: Patrick, his sister Thandie, brother Madziko, and sister Dorothy. A fifth sibling, a brother, died last year because there was no money to pay for medicine to treat his malaria.

patrick 01

A pastor friend of mine (who oversees a mission organization pairing US partners with orphans in nearby Rwanda) is paying Patrick’s tuition each semester, with whatever money he makes from part-time side-work reselling vintage items he finds in thrift stores, and other “found” money that materializes on occasion.

A few people in one of the small congregations I serve are pitching-in to provide educational uniforms and fees, as well as a small amount of money for food, for his two youngest siblings. Without funds for their education, they have been unable to attend school.  Thandie, Patrick’s oldest sister, has finished secondary school and dreams of attending university to become a licensed caregiver for people with special needs (mentally and physically challenged), but there are no funds for her college education now.

This picture is of Patrick and two other orphans from his community. When he was home on break from school this week, he met these two, six year-old Innocent, and nine year-old Innocecia. He spent his own money to buy them clothes, shoes, books, school supplies, and food.

patrick 02

Whenever I imagine that I don’t have enough money to share with others, Patrick’s story helps me keep things in perspective. It reminds me that the human heart holds the world’s greatest treasures: love, compassion, and generosity.

© 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


Easter Excerpts

cave

 

Matthew’s gospel has a whole lot of quaking going on. I want you to think about this quaking. Why is it here in the story? What does it mean?

27:50-53 …&…….  28:2

Sometimes it takes a little quaking to get us out of our ruts and our comfort zones, but our quaking differs considerably from God’s. Power’s shaking can’t hold a candle to love’s quaking.

I was going to race to the tomb,
but the women beat me to it.

I would have tried to roll away the stone,
but the angel-quake took care of that.

I might have raced
to tell the rest of the disciples,
assuming I wasn't among them,
behind locked doors,
quaking with fear.

The problem is
that most of these opportunities
are 2,000+ years gone.

Here’s the question I think both supersedes and surpasses our fascination with “Some bright morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” It’s this:

“In the big scheme of things, if death doesn’t have the last word, what does this change about life?” That is, “What difference does resurrection make in your and my here & now?”

28:7 The great hope & promise of resurrection is “he is going ahead of you”. Where would we be willing to go, what would we be willing do to, and who would we be willing to become if we really believed that he is still going ahead of us?

28:8 Resurrection sets us free from having to be God & from the burden of keeping ourselves alive. THAT’s the bizarre combination of “fear and great joy” that the women feel as they leave to keep moving toward the place to which the risen Christ is calling them.

This Easter, I'm praying
for the courage to set aside
all the shoulda, coulda,
and wouldas of my life.

Then, the only things left
 to do are to:

look for him among the living;

& reflect his light
 into the pain, suffering,
and grief of others;

& believe I'm forgiven
so I can practice forgiving others;

& step aside so grace can expand
into the places I'd rather it didn't;

& share my broken-hearted love
in broken ways,
with other broken people;

& take a pinch of bread
and a sip of wine,
believing that sacraments
make him real in ways
beyond my fathoming;

& practice the laying on of ears,
listening to both the entombing
and the untombing stories of others.

& finally, to breathe –
just breathe –
when I cannot
muster the wherewithal
to do anything else;

This is what I'll do,
trusting it will be enough.

Yes, the reality of resurrection
comes to pass, not just
"Some bright morning,
when this life is o'er..."
but also each day
in the here and now;

not by my own acts
or righteousness,
but by the love of God
in, through,
and around us all.

Easter’s quake keeps trembling,
raising the hair on your arm
and the back of your neck,
raising hope in your heart,
raising your capacity for compassion,
raising you and I to levels of love
we’ve never imagined.

By the grace of God,
Easter's not
our burden to prove.
It's our gift to live.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Simmering

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I watched a male Eastern Bluebird
sit on our deck rail,
his eyes askance and body
shifting side to side
in search of predatory danger.

When he took to his wings,
it was as if an iridescent stream
of shimmering blue flame
traced a launching rocket.

As he faded from my sight,
I wondered if my own
leaving of a place – any place –
would ever generate
such a brilliant trail to follow.

Deciding that the answer
was, "No." I resolved, again,
to desire less the sparkling beauty
of bluebird in my eye,
and more the steadfast reflection
of poetic hope simmering
in my marrow.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins