Respecting the awesome power of words!

Posts tagged “humanity

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
Advertisements

Be

fullsizeoutput_1682

 

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

Commitment

commitment

Photo by DeEtta Harris Jenkins

 

    I’d offer you a fluffy basketful
   of thoughts and prayers,
  but I’m pretty sure
 you’ve had a bate
of shallow nothingness.

     I’d offer you
    unfettered second amendment
   and total gun confiscation,
  but I can tell
 we’ve all suffered enough
from artificial binary limitations.

     I’d offer you
    religious extremism
   and mental illness,
  but it seems like
 there’s already a glut
of selective blame and projection.

  In digging through
 the closet, in search
of something else to offer,

   there, at the back,
  I find an old table
 and lots of chairs,
all covered with cobwebs.

  Let’s take them out,
 dust them off,
and all pull up a seat.

   Let’s leave the bank accounts
  and the campaign contributions
 at home,
and have a genuine discussion

     about who needs what
    and how to make changes
   that’ll significantly slow down
  the filling up of cemeteries
 with the bullet-riddled bodies
of our loved ones.

    Let’s let everyone
   have a say,
  and then commit ourselves
 to making this a safer place
to live together.

© 2018 Todd Jenkins

 


Reflexive

DE16DEF3-3068-4347-BA6E-5597C2C5770A

(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

hh6

 

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

 


Sutherland Springs

sutherlandPhoto by Owen Jenkins

 

“Thoughts and prayers” screech
in my ears like fingernails
across a chalkboard,
regurgitate into my throat
like the most heinous of tastes
come back to haunt me,
a platitudinous chaff
of phraseology.

   In the motionless void
   that follows, my eardrums
   are pierced by the echo
   of gunfire;

      another mass shooting,
      further propelling
      the land of the free
      to an insurmountable lead
      in the gold medal chase
      for death by firearms.

   We cry “terror!”
   when we see difference,
   and “mental illness!”
   or “lone wolf”
   when familiarity surfaces,
   all the while
   doubling down on weaponization,
   as if terminal violence
   were the antidote to rage.

Is there a tipping point
where the right to die
of some other cause
rises to the level
of the right to bear arms?

   Or should we bury hope
   next to the latest
   bullet-riddled victims,
   shrugging our shoulders
   in surrender
   as the second amendment
   rises to the throne
   of supreme deity?

Lord, have mercy,
because we have
completely lost the capacity
to birth it ourselves!

   © 2017 Todd Jenkins

Now Is the Time

IMG_7219Now Is the Time

There lies deep within 
  the human heart — yours,
    mine, and everyone else's — 
      a vision and desire 
    for how life is supposed 
  to be lived;

images of connection 
  without coercion, 
    dreams of enough 
      without competition, 
    hunger for community 
  without uniformity,

thirst for intimacy 
  without betrayal, 
    hope for understanding 
      without judgment, 
    longing for love 
  without condition.

All this is within us; 
  divine spark planted 
    before we were born.

There is but one impediment 
  to our bringing this vision 
    to life: fear.

Fear is a liar.

That is why so many stories
  of divine encounter begin
    with the holy plea, 
      "Fear not!"

Now is the time for us 
  to live from a deep place; 
    to rise up to the grace 
      for which we were created.

Now is the time for hope 
  to reveal the strong roots 
    she has sunk 
      in communities of faith, 
    to nourish our courage.

Now is the time.

© 2017 Todd Jenkins


Respite

zrespite

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

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

 


DBV

zDBV

 

      Death by violence;
    it is the trademark
  of a culture predicated
on consumption as arrival
  and competition for survival.

      The socioeconomic sausage grinder
    uses people like inanimate ingredients
  in a secret family recipe,
where nothing matters
  but the finished product,
    and the only ones not
      on the menu are those
    who’ve schemed or entitled
  their way to a table for one.

      When you hear the engine groan
    for lack of fodder, and
  squeal for lack of lubricant,
be sure to check the list
  of ingredients needed
    to satisfy the beast.

      No matter the euphemism
    behind which it's cloaked,
  if what's really called for
are the bones and blood
  of human lives,
    maybe it's time to build
      a more just machine;

      time to confess
    that stockpiled weaponry,
  war’s machinery,
tilted and justified incarceration,
  and border-based enslavement
    aren’t really meant
      to keep us safe or
    help the weak defend
  and provide for themselves,
but to keep power mongers on top. 

      Maybe it’s time to take
    this kind of sausage
  off the menu, and
search our collective souls
  for more sustainable fare.

            © 2017 Todd Jenkins