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Death-Defying

GJK 36Photo by Gay Jenkins Howell

The truth of Adam and Eve,
a friend told me, is
"A fig leaf is no substitute
for a therapist."

So much here to feast on;
so much here to run from;
so much here too real to face,
yet too close to reject.

Let us dare to live and breathe
in a naked now, O holy one,
not as tawdry exploitation
of bodies as objects,

but as death-defying risk
of abandonment to no less
and no more than our light-reflecting
and shadow-casting selves;

for the truth of creation's story
cannot be told
without such revealing.

Let both our poetry
and our prose
stand and fall
as blood-pumping gamble
of allowing the narrative
of who we are
to pulse out of
our own woundedness,

for it is in and from
our stories that we'll live
and die and be resurrected,
not just in the end,
but also in the breath
of their telling.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Forgiveness Road

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One step at a time;
never leave out a step;
never skip ahead;
start over as often
as you can.

First, we must recognize
our need to be forgiven;
soul-searching honesty
about pain caused
to self and others.

Second, we must recognize
God's offer of forgiveness;
offered, not because
of who we are or
what we've accomplished,
but because of who God is.

Third, we must accept
that offer of forgiveness;
accept it deep
in our bones,
in deeper places than
we ever knew we had.

Fourth, we must embody
the gift of forgiveness,
in our walking,
in our talking,
in our seeing and hearing,
in our breathing.

Fifth, we must
live forgiveness forward,
offering it to others
as freely as we received it;
not because they've earned it,
but because neither of us can;
not because they deserve it,
but precisely because
none of us do. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Sprout

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Even and especially in the face
of the most pernicious division and
hatred that fear can muster,
hope is resurrected
in the strangest places.

Like clandestine roots
from a chopped-down tree,
lingering beneath the soil,
it pushes up shoot, bud, then blossom
in a spoke-like pattern;
each eruption signaling
an unabashed attempt
to raise another trunk.

Buzz them all down and,
in a week or so,
another generation rises up.
Dig up the runners near ground level,
and their deeper cousins will surface.

When observing the natural world,
it doesn’t take long
to see that betting against hope
is a losing proposition.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Beginning

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As finite beings immersed
in a three-dimensional chronology,
we know stories of the time
before we existed, we catch glimpses
of moments we're in, and
we are sometimes haunted
by the time when we will no longer be.

Mortality's question knocks regularly,
"When and how will I die?"

Instead of ruminating
on circumstances of our death,
what if we poured ourselves
into the questions of life?

*For whom will I have a chance
to breathe and speak love today?
*Where and when can I
reflect grace today?
*How can my modeling
of forgiveness tilt the world
toward hope today?

Answering these, and
questions like them,
will bring us to life
in the moment.

This is the promise
of resurrection
for and in the present.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Float

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We yearn for heaven, and,
standing on this side
of the river, our soul
is enraptured by glimpses
we catch of the other shore.

Still, we'll risk wading
in the shallows,
rehearsing our swim
whenever courage is flush,
carefully calculating trajectory
based on the strength
of our supposed morality,
completely forgetting
that floating is the way across.

Letting go, instead
of holding on;
this is the way
to traverse the river. 

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


 

 

Music

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"We dance," they say,
because that is what
it feels and looks like
to stumble along life's path
with Grace as a partner,

catching you as you fall,
dipping you with such smoothness
that it all looks planned,
even if after the fact,

twirling you when you begin
to spin out of control,
always holding on to your hand
so you can be safely
pulled back from the edge,
no matter how far
or often you teeter.

"We dance," they say,
because the haunting music
underneath it all is pure love,
carried by the rhythm of Grace.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Matter

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Grace is not a tool
for individual release of responsibility.
It is not measurable, earnable, or expandable
by anything we can think, say, or do.
It cannot be hoarded
or saved for a rainy day.

It is our manna, gathered daily
as hoar frost upon the ground,
neither planted nor cultivated.

Grace is the nourishment
that feeds communities of faith.
It is the glue
that holds together cultures of diversity.
It is the hope
that infuses all creation.
It is the loom upon which
sorrow and joy are woven into love.

It is the gift
that transforms death into resurrection.

Feel grace; touch it;
be touched by it.
Reflect it to others.
Live by it, through it, in it.
It is world-transforming.
It is what was there
in the beginning,
what remains no matter what;
it is all that matters.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

gOOD nEWS

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When the gospel no longer
sounds like good news,
maybe our measure
of what is good –
and the people for whom
it was intended –
has slipped a few
too many notches.

We are not called
to shoehorn the gospel
into our narratives
of comfort and security,
but to open our hearts and lives
to love's expansive reach.

We are made to fit love,
not the other way around.

Keep stretching.
It's reaching toward you now;
has been since
before your first breath;
will be forevermore.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

Pall

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To say it casts itself,
like fisherfolk with their nets,
is as apt a description
as I can render.

Only there are no holes
to let light through,
only thick, suffocating,
blanket-like heaviness
to trap you underwater.

No one knows
where it comes from
or how it chooses
to settle on you
and not a stranger
whose flailing would barely create
a noticeable tremor in our web.

Clinicians speak
of perfect storms
and chemical imbalances  --
the likes of hail and hell
you wish and pray
were completely beyond conjuring.

When the darkness falls heaviest,
and your ears and heart
begin to funnel words
into ever-shrinking strings,
let these be the ones
sinking all the way
to the bottom of your soul,
to a place where pain is held
by love -- the only power
strong enough to not let go:

You are love with us.
You are love with.
You are love.
You are.
You.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins

 

Counting Questions

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Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

There are expenses
we regularly calculate, but
there are others we ignore.

In order to see the big picture,
we can't just ask,
"How much does it cost
to do such-and-such?" or
"How much does it cost
to not do it?"

We must recognize that
costs can be attached
to more than our wallets.
Here are some
of the gospel's calculating questions:

What will it cost my heart & soul
to do or not do this?
What will doing or
not doing this cost my family?
What will this action or
inaction cost my neighbor?
What will these choices
cost the planet?

The universe is expanded
by gracious choices.
It is diminished
by greedy ones.

The cost is outrageous
for all these priceless lives;
secretly calculated in hearts
too small to hold Love's grand truth;

too scared to see all of us
have the same value;
too busy counting and comparing
to feel the ground beneath us quaking,
the skies above us tearing.

We shrink because we sense difference,
recoil with superiority's confidence,
while the universe expands and diversifies
and the holy one weeps.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins