Respecting the awesome power of words!

perspective

Indifference

JL Todd (2)Photo by Jo Lightner Todd

Often, the thing that kills us –
the thing that digs the hole
into which we fall,
and from which we are
incapable of self-extraction –

isn't the full-strength sulfuric acid
of hate thrown in our face,
but a slowly constructed ladder
of slights and judgments
raising another up high enough
to no longer be willing
to see and hear that our stories
all have the same origin
and will conclude
with the same destination.

It is indifference
that steals away the breath
once filling the air between us,
a liter at a time, until
we are rendered unconscious
by the divisive vacuum.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

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Let Freedom Ring

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They didn’t and don’t put
their lives on the line
to save a flag or
to demand we all stand
or revere a song;

but to give citizens of their nation —
all citizens — the chance
to enjoy lives of dignity,
respect, and opportunity.

When forces within a national culture,
economy, and infrastructure
thwart such freedom for some,
pushing them to call attention
to such incongruity by the exercise
of a first amendment right,
it’s not flag or nation being disrespected,
but the notion that one experience
is the only one that’s normative.

Waving patriotism, nationalism,
or soldiers’ service and sacrifice
as objection to the objection,
are red herrings, as is the suggestion
that there are less offensive methods,
since acceptability is a big part
of what renders outcry ineffective.

Instead of attempting to  
to force all into lockstep,
may our discomfort drive us
toward the recognition
of systemic injustice,
and to a table where ears lean in
to understand, rather than recoil
to fashion argument and disagreement.

Dismissing and refusing to listen
to the stories of protesters
is the surest way to escalate
refraction of their experience
while delegitimizing their lives.

To object to dissent is to miss
the whole point of freedom.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Illumination

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Our world, O God,
is dark-averse.

We are so afraid of what’s
in the closet, under the bed,
and in the dark,
that we have created
artificial light for everywhere;

battery powered,
solar powered,
keychain flashlights,
cell phone flashlights;

we have become
a never-without-light society.

Even our religion succumbs
to this blinding, full-solar effect,
attempting to protect us
from ever seeing a shadow.

Each day we gather
around your Word
and your table,
remind us of all
that can be gained
from the dark, and
from recognizing and accepting
our shadow selves.

Remind us of all the times
when we couldn’t detect
your presence in our full-solar world,
but finally saw, heard,
tasted, and felt you
in the quietude of our midnights.

Speak your truth
into the varied lumens
of our reality,
and give us courage
to take the next step
with more faith in you
than in our flashlights;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Life

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    It is never really
    if the pain, loss, hurt,
    or grief come,
    but when.

  It is not just
  "What will you do?"
  or "Where will you turn?"
  but also, most significantly,
  "Who will you be?";

not just in it,
but also through it,
beyond it, and even
because of it.

  It's more than
  "How will it change you?";
  it's also "How will you offer
  others a chance to change?" 
  and even "How will you
  change the world?"

    Welcome to life,
    caterpillar.

© 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

 


Courageous

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The human mind has a great deal
   of difficulty recognizing more
      than one kind of courage.

Our mental faculties
   are more comfortable
      with a single dictionary entry.

But the heart, and especially
   the interaction of living
      a particular life, have ways
   of opening other windows.

The brain is best-suited
   for comprehending courage
      from life’s intersection
   with outward bodily harm,
inflicted by things like disease or war;

and we rightly laud heroes
   who've stared down organ failure,
      chemo or radiation,
   an enemy's barrel,
or similar physical threats.

Courage also wells-up
   from the burden society loads
      upon the backs of those
   whose misfortune it is
to not fit the mold.

This is the pressure
   generating more subtle weapons:
      epithetic daggers of hate,
   dipped in the cultural poison
of rejection, hurled
   into mold-broken hearts.

Overcoming these assaults
   may not leave limbs severed,
      bones shattered,
   or organs inoperable,
but finding and living grace
   with clandestinely-scarred psyches
      can be equally as courageous.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Duplicity

ktelliot

Photo by Kally Thompson Elliott

In August of 2013, through the confluence of a number of circumstances and experiences, I was compelled to pull to the side of the highway one morning and record a new perspective on a portion Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”. 

 

Give me your tomatoes,
your peppers, your hybrid  melons,
yearning to be consumed,
but not so much your tired,
your poor, your huddled masses
yearning to breathe free.

The wretched refuse of bowing
to chemicals and corporations
has our shores teeming with toxicity,
and our hearts quivering with xenophobia.

The tempest-tossed who dream
of hope will not so much be met
 with lamp at golden door
as laser sight and incarceration.

All the while, our consumptive greed
turns a blind eye to the duplicity
of deportation and the rending
of family's fabric, to which
we claim undying allegiance.

Who will resurrect liberty?

© 2013 Todd Jenkins

 


Entitlement

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When greed has run amuck,
words are turned inside-out,
like shirts that have missed
a much-needed trip
to the laundry,
stinking to high heaven,
and only discerned
by those who are
attentive to the seams.

Those in whose favor
everything's been tilted
for generations, and
in whose pockets piles
of plunder reside,
misconstrue language
to attack others
upon whose backs
castles are built.

"If they are without,"
the dictionary is rewritten
to declare,
"anything we allow them
to have must be entitlement."

And the one who created
the universe, via a vocabulary
with integrity, winces,
as tears roll down like
an ever-flowing stream,
because those whose hubris
is actually entitlement
have abandoned their own kin.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Enough

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To the person for whom
there's never enough,
there's always suspicion
others want your stuff.

The one who is
consumed with greed,
will never be touched
by hunger and need.

If comparison's the game
by which you thrive,
the train of joy
will never arrive.

Look at what you have,
instead of what's lacking;
it’s an important step
to send discontent packing.

Seeing the big picture
is a form of art
that fashions a glad
and generous heart.  

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


IS

IMG_7490Photo by Anne Shurley

 

So many stories surrounded
with 'splainin’ on all sides,
to help us engage
senses, mind, and spirit;
historical and geographic settings,
names and titles, details galore.

Did you ever notice
how little detail is provided
for the gospel accounts
of resurrection?

How the women arrive in the garden –
always the women –
with their minds set on one thing,
when their hearts are taken aback
both by the presence of angels
and the absence of a body?

How no one – neither narrator
nor character nor angel – 
wastes any ink
or breath to tell us how?

Nothing but active verb
in present tense.
He IS risen.

That's what we need to know.
From there, we follow,
letting the IS of resurrection
bring us straightforward
into the world's active presence.

Metaphor and poetry may be
the heart of our God-speak,
as no vocabulary or alphabet
are capable of capturing
the divine self;
but faith's foundational eruption
from the tomb simply IS.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins