Respecting the awesome power of words!

inspiration

The Beginning Is Near

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To genuinely observe Advent,
without being pulled
into the cultural tsunami
of commercial Christmas,
is to participate
in the eternal plan of Grace.

It is to rest in the promise
of divine deliverance
with at least a modicum
of hope that the gift will arrive,
not only with more
than sufficient efficacy,
but also before
the nick of time.

It is to admit
that we are fully incapable
of generating the gift
of incarnation on our own,
and we are therefore
entirely dependent
on both God's mercy and timing.

It is, at one and the same time,
both an exhilarating journey
and a risky adventure.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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Revolutionary

zrevolutionary

 

Poetry, like parable,
  is a powerful strain
   of subversive resistance.

        In parable, most often,
      by the powers
    of familiarity and comfort,
  we are lulled into sidling up
to prophetic truth
  with no more hesitation
    or anxiety than a carefree child
      lounging in the autumn grass
        with a magnifying glass
      or a beloved, snoozing family pet.

    Poetry seduces us,
  by a trinity of brevity,
wherein we find
  both breathing room
    and a niche for inserting
      our own narrative;

        simplicity, refreshing us like
      a summer rain shower;

    and a turn of phrase,
  opening neural pathways
of imagination we’ve either
  long-forgotten or never knew existed.

    Our first few encounters
      with these radical forms
        of blood-fueled ink
      can be chalked up
    to inexperience or naïveté.

  Eventually, however,
we will probably have to admit
  that something deep within
    hungers for such
      a revolutionary soirée.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Live It

fallA sermon riff on Matthew 23:1-12

 

The Pharisees’ talk 
is miles ahead of their walk,
their show far outpaces their go,
a saint is one thing they ain't.

Jesus differentiates between
the ones who are just
a flash in their own pan
and the ones the light shines through.

They're only platitudes
when our speaking
of them far exceeds
our living of them;

when what we say
is incongruent
with what we live;

when the verbal art
we paint is light years
beyond the canvas
of our ways;

when our talk and walk
are a bait and switch;
when we voice grace
but breathe fear.

The Communion of Saints includes
all those who ask forgiveness
when they live transactionally;
all those who choose
to see beyond binary thinking;
all those who find ways
to allow the transformational power
of grace to both enter in and pour out
of their broken, cracked places.

When the power of resurrection
seeps into our brokenness
at all the thin places
and thin times of our lives,

it is so radical and transformational
that the transactional world
cannot deal with it.

We begin to let go of all the pretending,
all the perfection, comparison, competition,
scarcity, fear, blaming, hoarding, ego;
all of the things by which
we had been controlled.

We begin to play by different rules.
The old rules, hard and fast
as they are, become insignificant;
not because we are above them,
but because we have been
moved beyond them.

We can no longer see and act
in binary fashion, checking off lists
of things we will or won't do
because they are right or wrong.

We are both under the control
of and set free by something
much bigger than law.

We are living through Love,
which turns out to be a messy,
complicated rule that refuses
to be exclusively held by anyone
or nailed to any particular place or time.

This Love is a gift.
We didn't earn it.
We don't own it.
We can't choose who deserves it,
because nobody does,
including us.

Yet it's been given to us anyway;
not just parceled out to us stingily,
but poured out on us extravagantly;

given to us so that
we can let its gift and power
soak all the way
to the marrow of our bones,

flushing out all hurt and hatred,
and all other lies of "not enough"
all falsehoods of “not good enough”;

given to us so that
we can reflect it to others;
so that we can share it
with everyone we meet.

Unlike all that other stuff
that controlled us,
this Love shrinks and dies
when we try to hoard it,
but grows and blossoms
when we give it away.

This is our mission –
our life's purpose
from this day forward –

to let the rule of Love
free us to respond with grace,
not because anyone has earned it,
but because we are all
dying without it.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Yarn

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Story is neither magic
nor medicinal,
in and of itself.

It is simply a way
of connecting yesterday's thread
of existence with today's,
laying groundwork
for the possibility of tomorrow.

It can be weaponized,
like most any tool,
when the tales told come
from a single source,
and one that’s oblivious
to every character but self.

If you want to feel
its purest form,
let a child spin you
yarns of truth formed
in the crucible
of innocence and vulnerability.

Then, you'll understand
the lines on which
the world turns.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


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

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)
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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