Respecting the awesome power of words!

love

Yes and No

IMG_8937Photo by Ashley Goad

Let your word be 
‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; 
anything more than this 
comes from the evil one. 
(Matthew 5:37)

Say yes to the rhythm
of your marrow;
yes to walking deliberately;
yes to listening attentively;

yes to considering prayerfully;
yes to speaking gently;
yes to acting compassionately;
yes to holding tenderly;

and as these yeses unfold
into the world,
you will find the wisdom,
strength, and courage
to say no;

no to division;
no to fear;
no to othering;
no to assuming;
no to hoarding;
no to hurrying;
no to spontaneously reacting;
no to violence;
no to abusing;
no to anesthetizing.

Learn the way of yes,
and the way of no
will follow close behind.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

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Reflexive

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(when Psalm 22 stares back at you from the mirror)

 

"My sons and daughters,
why have you forsaken them?
Why are you so far from responding
to the their cries and groanings?

They beseech you in daylight,
wailing at the wall you’ve constructed
to separate their lives
from your comfort and security.

By night, their pleas waft
on smoldering embers
of their deconstruction."

The victors have constructed
a lovely narrative of deliverance;
their cry, God’s response;
like a sacred vending machine,
fed with the coin of deserving.

But what of those who are judged
to be subpar, those whose DNA,
language, or faith heritage
come from beyond
the 23&me dream package?

What of those who showed up
for work or school or worship,
oblivious to the call to pack heat
for self-preservation;
those who trusted that
the least of these, the lambs,
would be protected
by the Great Shepherd’s shepherds?

They counted on us to carry them;
to be there, not just in the delivery room,
but at the grocery store checkout,
the public library, the classroom,
the youth group meeting, the job fair.

Is our absence because
we don’t really care, or because
we’re actually the carnivores
circling ‘round them?

Their tongues glue to the roof
of their mouths, like jerky
dried for consumption,
salted with the tears of their anguish.

Their skin taut, revealing
a cadaverous collection of bones.

The coyotes circle,
yipping and nipping,
casting lots for what little remains.

The dream we sold them
promised they’d have a shot;
guaranteed dignity, respect,
even opportunity;
but the fine print and disclaimer
excluded them for myriad reasons,
mostly because we feared
that including them
would cost us too much.

We are slow to catch on, O Lord;
blind and deaf and too scared
to realize that tossing them
to the curb is infinitely more costly
than we ever dreamed,
because it has cost us our very souls.

Is there still time, still hope,
still opportunity to pull
more chairs ‘round the table?

If we feed those who’ve been starved,
welcome those who’ve been exiled,
humble ourselves before you and pray,
will you make your light shine 
upon us all, once again?

We wrap ourselves
with the sackcloth of confession,
and dust ourselves
with the ash of contrition,
O holy one, in hopes
that our forsaking
will not become our forsakenness.

Deliver us, we pray,
that we may live
to proclaim your story
to generations yet to come.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Spoken Hearts

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Those who are
 vocabulary-challenged,
  and/or overcome by fear,
  often feel forced
 to abandon oral communication
in favor of violence;

the bravest, or perhaps
 the most desperate,
perpetrate physical aggression;

those with lesser gumption
 often assault language itself,
  waging battle against long-held meaning,
 gas-lighting society
into lexical confusion.

The rest of us
 are then tasked
  to hold firm
   to the tension
    between conflict
     forced upon us,
    and the eternal possibility
   of language,
  refusing to abandon
 the common ground
of our shared meanings.

In the end,
 war’s horror cannot
  stand on its own;
  and words, with their
 community interpretations,
will win,

because our common story
 outlives every other blitzkrieg,
  and love’s vocal evocation
 eventually woos
even frozen, trembling hearts.

          And now faith, hope, 
          and love abide, these three; 
          and the greatest of these is love. 
          (1 Corinthians 13:13)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Siblings

lpatrick2Photo by Linda Patrick

 

“Justice and peace
will kiss each other."
- Psalm 85:10

Justice and Peace embrace
in a warm hug and
double-cheek kiss

because they’re long-lost siblings,
separated soon after birth
by cultures, societies, nations,
and people who cannot see
and believe God’s generosity
and extravagance;

a blind disbelieving which tilts
the world toward selfishness,
greed, anxiety, and fear.

In the tension of such shrinking,
their (J’s & P’s) mother
had to ship them off
to separate family members
to be raised, while she
continually cleans up the messes
and patches the rent fabric
in societies that
tiny-hearted people create.

At least, that’s
the story I’m dreaming.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Vintage

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When I see them appear
in the corner of an eye,
it makes me wonder
what year they’re from;

what story is long buried
beneath the surface,
in the attic or the basement
or the back of a huge wardrobe,

where someone thought
they’d never be found;
but something happens;

a series of seemingly
unrelated events:

a song sung in just
the way you remembered;

or the wafting essence
of bread being baked
or the scent a favorite cuisine
you haven’t had in years;

or the way the light comes
through the trees;
or some other dormant trigger.

There we find ourselves,
tears flowing like
an artesian well,

conjuring up emotional baggage
from eons ago,

begging us to uncork
vintage love, pain, and grief,
and sip our way
through a story
of healing,
if not resurrection.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Reflection

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      Advent is an annual festival
    remembering us into
  the story of love’s
complete arrival in the flesh.

        Once written into the narrative,
      we have to choose
    between accepting
  what has chosen us,
or not.

      There exists within the human soul
    a freedom to choose
  the slavery of ignoring,
rejecting, and abandoning love.

      It is a painful, diminishing choice
    that, once made,
  can only be overcome
by the very thing not chosen.

        Those possessed by love
      have the antidote
    to undo the curse,
  but they can only do so
by rejecting reciprocity

    and, instead,
  reflecting the image
of the gift’s giver.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Respite

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Hate rallies beneath its banners
of battles lost to hope and humanity,
frantically waving its flags,
furiously stoking fires of division,
refusing to let go,
doggedly extending the war,
unable to surrender to grace.

Together, we must all
keep marching toward
a narrative that brings us
to a place of peace
that passes understanding.

Until we arrive at such
a sacred respite,
the fighting will be interminable.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

May You

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For a while you shared a lifetime;
though it seems but a flash;
and never enough;
and always too soon;
and too painful to bear.

All of these are true.

May your memories,
and Keats and Oliver
and all the poets whose pens
were filled with the ink
of their own
painfully dripping blood,

and the DNA shared
with your kin — physical genes
as well as spiritual ones —
and the people who’ve been
and are your neighbors
through the years,
all weave a comforting blanket
of presence to brace
your tired shoulders
against the biting cold wind
of the valley
of the shadow of death.

May you take one step at a time,
one day at a time;
and on the days when you can
neither stand nor step,
may you find sleep,
if not dreams,
beneath a warm quilt of hope.

May there come a day
when the light pushes
the shadows back
into the deep woods
from whence you’ve journeyed
for much longer
than you dreamed possible.

May you recognize home,
once again;
and may your breath
be restored.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Selah

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As an acrostic of storms
accumulates on our news feeds,
their names aligned
like Beelzebub's old-school Rolodex,
we beseech you, O God
of wind and water,
to breathe a calming counter-wind
and send sponge-clouds
to hold the deluge,
so rain is more gently squeezed out
in manageable and absorbable amounts.

As the earth trembles to our south,
gaping wide to swallow portions
of Central American civilization,
we pray for a tangible presence
of your sacred tether, O God.

Give hope to those digging
through the rubble
in search of life.
With and in your strong
but tender hand of comfort,
O prayer-catcher,
gently hold the tears
of those buried in the grief
of loved ones lost.

The forests are ablaze, not
with the light of your glory,
O God, but with a consuming
fire of destruction.

You, who created winds
that can be whipped into storms,
we implore you
to breathe extinguishing spirits
and send blanketing rains
upon the woods and neighborhoods,
shielding firefighters
and all life in peril's path.

May our prayers have hands,
feet, wallets, and hearts
that know not national boundaries,
speaking, acting, giving,
and breaking for all, near and far,
who find themselves
battered and unmoored.

Let us refract your love, O Lord,
through the dispersive prism of grace,
that all may know your rainbow promise.

Wind and water, earth and fire,
all elements of creation's glory;
so let it be imagined;
so let it be intoned;
so let it become.
Selah, selah, selah.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Home Depot

Randy Calvo 01

Photo by Randy Calvo
For the hearty souls, 
O God, who find 
the Depot Home away from home, 
and yet in no way home, 
we give you thanks and pray. 

For those who understand 
Matthew 20 far better 
than they wished, 
who line-up like cattle in the chute, 
or slaves on the block, 
striking a paradoxical pose 
of desperation and indifference, 
hoping against hope
to find a generous master for a day,
we offer prayer, 
knowing that it is but the beginning. 

Let us be emboldened, 
by the words and fire
of our supplications,
O Lord of labor, so we 
may recognize them as neighbors, 
aflame enough to challenge
the systemic injustice 
driving their daily auction. 

Let us be courageous enough 
to see their families, 
dependent on their labor, 
and to understand their work is also
something on which
we, ourselves, are dependent.

Whether they live around the corner 
or across the border, 
give us courage to enact love 
in tangible and nourishing ways. 

Let us skip the 23andme, 
practicing the radical hospitality 
of our spiritual genetics 
with these kinfolk of ours. 
Let us open God's storehouse. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins