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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
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Objection

fullsizeoutput_78fFlat Creek Bottle Chapel (Flat Creek, TN)

 

Politics and Faith often function
  as competing claims
  for the same prize:
the soul of humanity.

You can no more baptize one
  in the name of the other
  with a light sprinkling of rhetoric
  than you can sweeten the ocean
with a few teaspoons of sugar. 

I'm not a professional student
  of the history
  of the USA's immigration policy,
  but the piecemeal agreements
  and policies that directly address
  and affect our neighbors
  to the south seem to be
  heavily weighted toward developing
and protecting corporate interests,

with little concern for how
  these economic realities impact
  the movement, safety,
  and cohesiveness
  of individual workers
and their families. 

We need less people
  piecing together and quoting
  scattered verses of scripture,
  and more people
  whose intellectual anchor is sunk
in our sacred texts' overarching theme.

God's historical predilection
  for all whose circumstances
  are void of power, voice,
  influence, and control is peppered
throughout scripture's narrative.

Until that imperative is given
  a legitimate seat
  at the policy table,
  and the economic practices
  that perpetuate our ballooning
  resource imbalance are up
  for honest discussion,
  human and family need
  will continue to be
unaddressed and unmet. 

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

Anyone

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And a voice thundered
from the clouds —
or was it a whisper in the dark —
or maybe both,

     “I love you, 
     each and every one of you, 
     so much that I refuse 
     to let anything 
     stand between us. 

    Even if you are so disbelieving 
    of this love and so afraid 
    of its unconditionality 

   that you kill the very flesh 
   of mine that I sent 
   to reveal it, 

  I will not give up on you, 
  but will keep pouring grace 
  like an everflowing stream. 

 It will flow through, around, 
 and into every crevice 
 of your life, whether 
 you’re paying attention or not, 
 until one day, you finally 
 give up on all the lesser gods 
 of competition, comparison, 
 amassing, distancing, 
 fortressing, and separation.”

“This is how much God loved the world: 
He gave his Son, his one and only Son. 
And this is why: so that no one 
need be destroyed; 
by believing in him, 
anyone can have 
a whole and lasting life.”
John 3:16 (MSG)

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Dominance and Power

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The only dominance and power
  Christ intended for his followers
    to wield was the dominance
      and power of love.

      In order to practice love,
    we must set aside
  all other vestiges
of control and influence.

Don’t bring your bomb
  to a dialogue
    that can be diffused with understanding.

    Don’t bring your gun
  to a discussion
that can be mitigated with hope.

Don’t bring your knife
  to a confrontation
    that can be deescalated with listening.

    Don’t bring the jawbone of an ass
  to a conflict
that can be reconciled with grace.

Don’t bring your fear
  to a conversation
    that can be healed with love.

    Love is a tool, a gift,
  more powerful
than any weapon ever conceived.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 

Fragmented

IMG_4208Photo by Lee Lindsey McKinney

 

   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

 

Prayer

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    As I watched video from a group
   of people offering a vitriolic prayer
  for violent success in their
imminent encounter with others
  who were identified as different,
   I contemplated the definition
    and purpose of such supplication.

  Perhaps the only thing we can say
 for certain about prayer is that
it is a petition offered on a level
 other than the realm
  in which we physically function.

  It can be a request for self-validation,
a plea for deliverance,
  or many things in-between.

  It might be offered
to the creator of the universe,
a deity of our own construction,
  or an unknown entity.

   We all do it, and probably
  more often than we realize;
sometimes with prescribed
  forms of hope, and other times
   with generic invocations of desperation.

To say that ours have been answered
is to lay claim to their recipient’s legitimacy.

  It seems to me that the genuine mettle
of our god surfaces, however,
not when results coincide
  with our requests, but when they don’t.

  Who and where is your god
when your petitions disappear
  into the abyss of the unrequited?

  There, in the vulnerable nakedness
of “No.” or “Not yet.”,
there remains the possibility
  of divine presence or absence.

    If you find yourself,
   in the deepest darkness,
  convinced that you’re walking alone,
you might want to consider
a different way of sensing,
  an alternate trajectory
   for your pleas and praise,
    or both.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Get Thee Behind Me, G!

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“Jesus is bringing in 
another kingdom!” 
he declared.

“What kind of kingdom?” 
I wondered.

“A fierce, brutal kingdom!” 

“Hmmm.” I said.
“We’ve already had 
a bate of those monarchies. 
They’re a dime a dozen, 
piled high with carnage 
and destruction, 
toppled and reinvented 
like an unstoppable wave 
of serial monogamists. 
What if Jesus had something 
altogether different in mind?”

“Like what?” he asked,
his voice dripping
with doubt and suspicion.

When they heard
that he taught
as one with authority,
the generals and the politicians
and the landed gentry
and a few other wannabes
who were skilled
at masquerading
came to see him.

“We have come 
to do your bidding, Jesus. 
Your word is our command. 
Speak and we will marshal 
our troops and resources 
on your behalf.” 

His voice was unmistakably
firm and unyielding,
“I have come to proclaim 
a new way of being; 
a community where the tools 
you have come to treasure 
will be exposed 
as impotent and irrelevant; 
a neighborhood 
where connection reigns supreme.” 

“But, rabbi,” 
they chimed in chorus,
“we have all this might 
and power to wield 
on behalf of your kingdom!” 

“Get thee behind me, G! 
For I came to slice you 
from the middle 
of the violent concept 
of kingdom, 
and usher in God’s realm 
of kin-dom.” 

One by one,
with heads drooped
and shoulders stooped,
they slouched
toward their fortresses,
oblivious to the way
love was already
crumbling their walls.

© 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

E-Strangement

IMG_3929Photo by Owen Jenkins

How much more has our access
to a virtual world exacerbated
our isolation and identity
of both other and self as stranger?

We are, are we not, e-strangers;
limited-character replies
passing in the night,
hell-bent and fear-rent
on steaming full speed ahead
so we don’t dare take on anything,
much less anyone?

Neighborhooding, friending,
working, voting, and churching
ourselves into social, economic,
and religious homogeneity
are not the answer;
they are the problem.

Open the door —
the actual physical one —
and break out the food —
the kind that satisfies
real human hunger.

We must gather ‘round a table
where all have a seat
and none are on the menu.

This is our only chance;
our only path away
from mutually assured destruction;
our only road to hope.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

Be

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Esse quam videri –
 literally, “To be,
rather than to seem.”
is the North Carolina state motto.

It has also been translated,
“Be who you are.”

If ever there was
a “be and not just seem” one,
it was God-with-skin-on
from Nazareth,
whose parents named him “Jesus.”

I spent most
(okay, pretty much ALL)
of my first 30 years focused
on proving other people wrong.

That is, when someone said,
“You can’t/don’t know
how to do that.”
(because you’re left-handed,
too small/weak, young,
from a small town,
not educated enough, etc.),
I set out to prove them wrong.

Even though I became
quite adept at this,
one day, I realized
my life choices were based,
not on any inner sense
of purpose or drive,
but merely on competing
against the expectations of others.

I’ve spent the last 28+ years
learning to let go
of that need to prove
my enoughness to anyone,
including myself.

Wilderness, whether it’s mountains,
lakes, desert, or somewhere else,
is a place where the taunting voices
can most fully be shed,

giving me ears to hear
and heart to focus
on my own breath,

and helping me recognize
where and how my own worth
is validated, not in
the meeting or defeating
of others’ expectations,

but through the defining
and developing of self
in mutually healthful
service to the world.

Thanks be to God!

© 2018 Todd Jenkins