Respecting the awesome power of words!

journey

“Free Ears”

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      That’s the sign
     I’m going to hand-letter
    on poster board
   and hang across
  the front of a card table
 near a busy
pedestrian intersection.

Perched behind
 the advertisement,
  I’ll offer an empty chair
    for passersby,
      leaning-in as they
       take a load off,
        giving their stories
         a roost to call home.

   What tale
  would you spin,
 right there in front
of God and everybody?

I might tell
 of the gut-punch
  that overwhelmed me when,
   over a six-week eternity,
    my mom permanently crossed
     from full physical function
      to forever flatlined;

how I lay awake nights,
 bouncing between
  trying to wake up
   from the nightmare,
    and silently plea-bargaining
     with nothing but
      my own life
       and confession as leverage.

      I used to think
     that telling it
    to anyone who’d listen,
  over and over,
 could somehow
change the story.

Then one day
 I realized that I
  was the one changed
   in its telling.

  You don’t have
 to wait for the sign, table,
and chairs to appear.

I keep my free ears
 with me most of the time.

What about you?

© 2018 Todd Jenkins
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Whistle

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    The ten o’clock train
    cruises through town,
    whistling in the dark
    to signal its passing;

  and I, years removed
  from parallel steel
  and locomotives,
  am transported
  by its lonesome warble
  to simpler, childhood days
  when marbles,
  baseball cards,
  and bicycles ruled.

What would I give
to return to such naïveté?

  Nothing.

    I am marrow-deep convinced
    that hope
    is far more securely grounded
    in a future where questions
    drift on the wind,
    and life’s complexities
    are navigated much less
    by certitude and
    much more by grace.

  Grace of more
  than tiger’s eye,
  banana seat, and
  clothes-pinned trading cards;

of grief and pain
ripped deep,
when a parent left
and broke our hearts,
preparing us
for spindly love
to slice us to the marrow.

  Now, this is a box-car
  I would hop,
  to ride to who-knows-where,
  with hobos born
  far and near,
  in search of bread and wine
  to quench and satisfy
  the empty rumbling
  in our souls.

    Do you hear
    the whistle blowing?

© 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

One Foot

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Shadows cast themselves
across the path,
entirely convinced
they are chains,
if not barbed wire,
fully capable
of strangling all movement
in any direction.

But I, vessel
of light and dark,
fire and ice,
have burst
across their boundaries
time and again,
brimming with hope
in a sea of despair,

not because
of who I am,
but because
of what love’s done;
not because
of what I’ve done,
but because
of who grace is.

Let us,
both you and I,
break into
an all-out sprint,
flinging ourselves across
these penumbral barriers
like Olympians
at the finish line,
leaning into
and breaking the tape
of victory’s wreath.

This is the courage
by which we 
who’ve plumbed
the depths of despair
keep putting one foot
in front of the other,

because our deeps
keep telling us
there’s not only light
beyond the valley
of the shadow of darkness,
but life
in its richest manifestation.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


4 Steps

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Love
Betrayal
Death
Resurrection;
four steps
of the dance of life.

Forth and back we go,
moment by moment,
step by step;
dips, turns, spins;
often breathless,
even dizzy.

Seldom are the people
in our inner circle
all on the same measure,
much less the same note.

Rarely do our tempos coincide.

But if we pay attention,
and hold one another
with tender, open hands,
the dissonance
of our differences
is significantly overshadowed
by the rhythmic sway
of the cosmos’ heartbeat.

Thump, thump.
Thump, thump.

Breathe.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Vacancy

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        On a hotel or motel sign,
      it beams into the darkness
    to make sure every passerby knows
  at least one more room has been cleaned
and prepared for occupancy.

        How many of the things
      with which we fill our lives
    and schedules are attempts
  to switch off the “Vacancy” sign
in our souls?

  “Doing” will never dim
that flashing neon sign.

    It takes “being”
  and even resting
to accomplish that.

      It takes recognizing that both
    our existence and our purpose
  are inextricably linked
to God as well as to others.

        Fulfillment comes
       when the less-obnoxious
      but quite obvious light
    in our eyes that radiates
  from the depth of our soul
whispers, “Whole.”

      The day when the vacancy sign
    is forever replaced
  with the fullness of grace,
we will be able to sing,

      “Whole at last;
    whole at last!
  Thank God almighty,
I’m whole at last!”

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Where the Heart Is

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You can never step
 into the same river twice.

Neither the you
who is stepping
nor the water that's flowing
are the same as at
any time before or after.

Time, it’s been said,
stops for no one,
“an ever rolling stream”
bearing all of us
toward eternity.

Home is just such a river,
which is not to say,
that once you leave,
you can't go back;

just a reminder
that life's flow
makes both of you
different than you once were.

Go home anyway.

No matter how long
it’s been, both you
and home need to visit
one another again;

for such are the ways
by which the universe
is regularly reordered.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Fragmented

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   I grew up mostly with
   a staunchly convinced
   intellectual faith
   until the day an inability
   to wrap my brain around
   the death of my mother
   cracked my hard head
   into fragments.

  My heart caught all the pieces,
  as they tumbled down,
  and tenderly held them
  until they could be reassembled.

 Now, I spend my days sharing
 stories of crumbled dreams
 that have been resurrected
 into pictures of hope;
 images we never
 could have fathomed
 with our solidified minds
 and plans alone.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Follow Me

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There is no cable-car
to whisk us from
the boothless peak
of Moses, Elijah, Jesus,
and the three disciples 
to a Cadbury confectioned
empty tomb;

no Platform 9 ¾  
into which
we can plunge headlong
and suddenly find ourselves
transported to peaceful bliss.

There is only Lenten exodus;
forty days,
that might as well be 40 years,
through which we slog,
breathless and arrhythmic,
trembling yet driven
by a force planted at birth.

Let our hope for Easter’s arrival
be more than a vacuous promise
from they-sayers,
or a mainline injection
from anesthetizers,
or a little more icing on the cake
from already-made-its,
or a fairy-tale rescue
from pie-in-the-skyers.

Let us dare to descend
from the mountain
with the transfigured
and enfleshed one
into the valleys of the shadow
of hell in real people’s lives —
including our own —
and risk whoever
we think we are and even
who we really are
for the sake
of other human beings.

Let us do it, not because
they look like us,
   think like us,
      vote like us,
         speak like us,
            live like us,
               or pray like us.

Let us do it because
we’re all created
in the image of God;

because risking ourselves
for one another
is what we’re here for;

because we feel,
in the deeps of our soul,
the kin-dom Jesus lived
and to which he gave birth.

Let us do it because
we know we must find ways
to keep ourselves
in this, together,
or we will find ourselves
out if it, apart.

The only path
that leads to resurrection
takes us through
the purple haze of pain,
leads us in
the dance of suffering,
nails us to the tree of unliving.

The empty tomb
cannot be reached
unless we dare
to bare ourselves
to rigor mortis’ relentless march,
before the rising sun
of grace’s throne.

Let us dare to descend
into the entombing pits
of the grief, pain,
and suffering
by which we are surrounded,
hoping against hope
that unconditional love
can and will easter us all.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

May Our Prayers Rise to Meet You

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Our prayers rise on your behalf,
lifting you into the presence
of the Great Physician:

Behold your precious child, O God;
one created in your image
and filled with your reflection.

Grant that the medical team
may continue to act with wisdom,
compassion, and understanding,
so that the journey along the
road to recovery may be
bearable and dotted
with respites and oases
giving breathing room.

Grant an awakening each day
with enough courage
to climb out of bed,
enough strength
to shuffle forward,
and enough hope
to lift eyes to the rising sun.

Grant that caretakers and family
may discern when to push
and when to hold,
when to cry
and when to laugh,
when to speak
and when to sit in silence.

These and all prayers we waft
in the name of him whose robe hem
sparkled with life itself,
Jesus the Christ. Amen.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins