Respecting the awesome power of words!

privilege

Circumference

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Perhaps the human penchant
for scapegoating,
enemy-identifying, denial, and
refusal to accept responsibility,
would be a little less surprising
if we were willing and able
to admit the struggle between
good and evil going on
in each of our hearts
all day long and
most of the night.

The more and longer
we bifurcate reality,
conveniently hopping just over
the good/evil dividing line
each time we redraw it,
the deeper the chasm
of separation we dig.

If ever there was a time
for etching lines –
a season I cannot imagine –  
it is now long past.

Hope calls us to be
making circles, each one
more expansive that the last,
until all stories fit
within the circumference.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Gospel

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We live and breathe, O God,
in a world increasingly beholden,
not to the gospels of Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John,
but rather to the gospels of division,
fear, hatred, and violence.

Remind us today, and each day
of our earthly sojourn,
that you did not create us
for such divisive, loveless,
hopeless, and destructive purposes.

Give us courage to speak
your truth to privilege and power –
the privilege and power
we've been granted,
the privilege and power
at the top of the constitutional
and governmental food chain,
and all privilege and power in-between.

Give us compassion to feel
the anxiety and hurt rising up
from those who regularly find themselves
at the short end of the stick
and the end of the line,
with targets on their backs,
because of the practice of their faith,
the color of their skin,
the nation of their birth, or
the configuration of their chromosomes.

Give us wisdom to recognize
the greed and indifference
that turn a blind eye
for profit's sake.

Give us integrity to live into
our created purpose,
so we may speak justice,
walk humility, and breathe hope.

As followers of the resurrected one,
we are called to be his voice,
his hands, his feet.

Show us how to live and love,
so we and our broken world
can find ourselves
pieced together by and
mortared with grace.

So let it be spoken,
so let it be lived,
so let it be done.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Duplicity

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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

 


This Just In

LL McPhoto by Lee Lindsey McKinney

Fear divides, intent
on conquering with its,
“Vive la différence!”

Love unites, earnestly
calling us together,
“Vive la similarité!”

What matters is not 
the color of our skin,
the roots of our faith,
or the nation of our origin,

but whether privilege
can truly be acknowledged,
voluntarily relinquished,
and power bestowed with grace,

so long-held shackles
can be hammered
into step-ladders of hope.

It is past time for us
to work better, together,
nourishing and quenching
a world hungry for dignity
and thirsty for respect.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Generosity

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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.

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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


They

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They demanded and
even forced your labor,
offering no or little wages.

Silly me; I assured myself
I was doing comparatively well,
and somebody had
to be at the bottom,
mostly glad it wasn't me.

They took your dignity,
with images and cultural narratives
painting you as lesser,
or airbrushing you out
of the picture altogether.

Foolish me; I looked
in the mirror and saw
the right shade and shape,
assuming I still had
shreds of my own remaining.

They kicked you out
by banning and deportation,
as if culture, language, and religion
were legitimate wedges.

Trembling me; I fell
for scapegoating, ignoring
the malignancy
of systemic dis-ease.

They broke your spirit,
kicking you in the gut
with insufficient opportunities,
boot on your throat
with charges of laziness.

Ignorant me; I thought
I could prop mine up
with consumption and dogged pursuit,
not of my dreams, but
of what they told me to desire.

They're here
to steal your soul,
and it slices through my own,
clearly awakening me
to our eternal tether.

Now, I realize I've been
a part of "they" all along,
with my blind eye,
my silence, my privilege,
my vested interest votes.

Maybe we can't go back,
but I know that,
wherever we must go from here,
it will have to be together.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Change of Heart

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“Give us something to cheer about!”, the crowd cajoles. “We are in need of hosanna –  of being delivered on the spot – so let’s get moving!”

“Look what I have for you.” the voice trembles at first, then crescendos, “I have attacked an enemy with brute military might!”

“Is there gore, and blood? Can we do a victory dance?”

“Yes! Stomach-turning violence and rivers of blood. Let the spoils of celebration be gathered!”

“Let the banshee cry! Let reveling be unleashed!”

“But earlier in the week you had a different master; one who healed the sick, fed the hungry, invited the uninvited, and loved the unlovable. What of him?”

“His ways are arduous, expecting our abundance to feed the hungry, calling us to love our enemies, asking difficult questions of our choices and allegiance. Who knew being neighbors would be so complicated?!”

“I would never ask such challenging things of you. All empire asks is your unquestioned allegiance, your willingness to join and support the force, and a few other minor details in the fine print. You’ll learn about them later.”

“We are in!”

“The one you paraded into town on Sunday; do you know how dangerous he is? He’s a threat to all we’re trying to amass. As long as he’s around, you’ll always struggle, not just with how to treat your neighbor, but also with how far your neighborhood extends.”

“Ah, we see what you mean. In that case, by all means, let’s nip it in the bud, once and for all.”

“And by that, you mean?…”

The crowd roared, “Nail him to a tree! String him up! Give him the needle! Pull the switch! Ready, aim, fire!”

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 


Heirloom

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Privilege is not always
a purposefully chosen perch.

Sometimes, it is
an heirloom pair
of platform shoes,
handed down from
generation to generation;

so comfortably ingrained
in our lives that we begin
to believe the reason
our view is head and shoulders
above the rest is because
we were born this tall.

Make sure your mirror
is floor-length, fully revealing
all dimensions and spectrums.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins